The Spanish tactician, who took in a brief spell as Blues boss in 2012-13, sees expectation rising at Stamford Bridge in the current campaign
Roman Abramovich’s decision to loosen the purse strings at Chelsea and invest heavily in a number of fresh faces means Frank Lampard “must deliver” in 2020-21, claims Rafa Benitez.
Big spending is nothing new at Stamford Bridge, with the presence of a billionaire owner allowing for regular forays into the transfer market to be made.
Abramovich has, however, resisted the urge over recent years to splash the cash – with a recruitment embargo also needing to be taken into account.
Lampard has seen his owner relax that stance this summer and bankroll moves for the likes of Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell and Kai Havertz.
Chelsea now boast competition for places all over the field, having worked hard on developing home-grown talent in 2019-20.
The west London giants are always expected to be in the mix for top-four finishes and major honours, given the quality available to them, but expectation levels are rising again.
Benitez believes Abramovich will be demanding an immediate return on his latest investment, with there a number of Premier League sides under pressure to deliver this season.
The Spaniard, who savoured a Europa League triumph during a brief stint in charge at Stamford Bridge in 2012-13, told the Daily Mail of goings on at Chelsea – with a number of managers having failed to produce the tangible success that he did: “That means we delivered. They could see we were professionals, working hard and doing things right. I didn’t have any regrets.
“The problem at this time was that they wanted to win, they needed to win, they were desperate to win. As soon as something was wrong they were changing the manager and changing policy.
“But the reality is that they were improving the system, Michael Emenalo was doing a good job as director of football, their academy was very good, always winning the FA Youth Cup.
“Now you can see Abramovich is back with his support and they have signed a lot of good players and will be very competitive.
“This year, Chelsea and Manchester United must deliver. They have spent some money in recent years.”
Benitez has taken in three stints as a Premier League boss, with his time at Chelsea sandwiched by spells at Liverpool and Newcastle.
He is currently with Chinese outfit Dalian Professional but, despite now being 60 years of age, is not ruling out a return to England at some stage in the future.
Benitez added: “My wife is telling me to relax a bit.
“But I like to be on the pitch, preparing my tactics, competing for trophies. Of course I can see myself back in the Premier League and closer to my family. When? I don’t know.
“In the meantime, I will go on watching the Premier League games with my staff. We have arguments depending on the team we support.
“The pandemic has changed a lot but it has not changed our passion for the game.”