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Mar 5, 2012

Rafa coy over Blues

Rafael Benitez has underlined his determination to take charge of a "top club that can fight for titles" but did not confirm whether he was interested in succeeding Andre Villas-Boas at Chelsea.

• Ramires signs new contract
• Mata: We must save our season
• Scolari warns of Chelsea 'hell'
• Chelsea to target Guardiola
• Vialli questions Di Matteo deal

Chelsea finally axed Villas-Boas at the weekend after the 1-0 defeat to West Brom left the club three points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, and ESPNsoccernet understands Benitez had an interview for the position last week.

Those talks fell through as Benitez was unwilling to accept a short-term deal until the end of the season but, while Roberto Di Matteo has now been installed as caretaker, the Spaniard may still come under consideration when a permanent appointment is made in the summer.

"I would like to have in the future a top side, a top club that can fight for titles and challenge," Benitez told Sky Sports News. "That was my idea when I came to Liverpool; after I went to Inter it was the same and Valencia was the same. My experience is in the Champions League, to challenge and to try and win trophies."

It has been suggested that Benitez would be seen as a good option given his previous success in managing Fernando Torres.

Asked about his relationship with the striker, Benitez said: "I was really pleased with Fernando at Liverpool. It was fantastic for the club, for him, for everyone. He's a top-class player and he will do well."

Benitez has been out of work since leaving Inter after only half a season and, although he has sympathy with Villas-Boas, he feels the sacking culture is worse outside the Premier League.

"I don't like to see any manager lose a job," he said. "Before, people were more patient, but now you have to win almost every week. I have experience in Spain and Italy and it is even worse there - after two or three games you are under pressure."

Sven-Goran Eriksson, meanwhile, feels Roman Abramovich had little option but to sack Villas-Boas and said he would have no hesitation in taking the job if approached.

Asked if it had become the impossible job, Eriksson told Sky Sports News: "No, nothing is impossible.

"This time I think it's understandable that something happened. I can understand it because Chelsea - they want to play in Europe next season and they are still in the FA Cup and still in the Champions League, so they have a lot to play for.

"I feel sorry for him, absolutely. It was his first year in English football and it was not easy for him, but I can understand it. If I were the owner, I would have been worried for the next few months.

"It's always very sad when losing a manager, especially after so little time at a club, but what do you do when you see things going not the way you want?"

It is thought that the senior stars at Chelsea had a significant role in influencing the sacking but Eriksson, who has managed many of the squad during his time with England and Ivory Coast, has defended the players.

Asked about the likes of Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Didier Drogba, he said: "They should be a power because of all the experience they have, but they are professionals. All of them. I know them - good guys, good professionals. Talking about the English players, the Ivory Coast players, they are extremely professional - all of them."

Chelsea made a much-publicised attempt to appoint Eriksson after Abramovich's arrival in 2003 and, as he is currently out of work after leaving big-spending Championship side Leicester in October, he could feasibly take charge of the club now or at the end of the season.

Eriksson would clearly welcome the opportunity to manage the club, though he expects Di Matteo to remain in charge until the summer.

"I would take it of course but I doubt I will be offered it," he said. "They already have a manager until the end of the season. I guess that is a natural solution because he has been at the club now for the whole season.

"I don't know who will be the next manager. They have a lot of time to sort that out. I would guess that every manager in the world would accept Chelsea."

He added: "It's a huge job. It's one of the biggest you can find in this country - in the whole of Europe I would say."

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