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May 13, 2013

Benitez praises successful season

Rafael Benitez is comfortable in the knowledge that he has been a success in his interim role as Chelsea manager - whatever the result of Wednesday's Europa League final in Amsterdam.

• Delaney at Villa Park

The former Liverpool manager harbours no hope at all of Roman Abramovich extending his reign as boss at Stamford Bridge but insists he will walk away with his head held high.

Victory by Frank Lampard's record-breaking two goals at Aston Villa on Saturday has assured Chelsea of Champions League qualification and left Benitez dismissing the notion that he has had to run a gauntlet of disapproval from all Blues supporters.

"For us to go to the final having qualified for the Champions League means we can give the best now," he said.

"A lot of fans appreciate that. I receive a lot of messages from people in the street saying 'good job!' A lot of fans appreciate it but you can't convince everyone.

"You can see how the players work and what we're trying to do. I am really proud because it was not a perfect environment.

"I remember some managers … with that hostility in the stands, they couldn't carry on. But we have had semi-finals, another final and qualified for the Champions League. It's an achievement."

Benitez has underlined that he hopes his next job will be in the Premier League and says his substantial spell out of the game, before his return late last year, was partly because he turned down offers in the meantime.

Given his Anfield connections, it would be a huge shock if he considered Everton as a serious opportunity this summer, but it is clear he will be a keen observer amid the goings-on at other leading clubs - or those with high potential.

"There are two options," he added. "One is to get a project … two or three years to build a team, like I did at Liverpool. Or maybe a top side with money so you can buy players.

"We have to wait but the priority is England. If you can't find the right one here, you have to look elsewhere.

"I prefer to concentrate on the (Europa) final for now. Benfica are a very good team and this was our 63rd game of the season but I don't think fatigue will be a problem. Hopefully we have enough quality in the squad.

"There are three or four days between the games, so we have time to recover. The problem came at Villa because it was an early kick-off and we played a big match on Wednesday night against Tottenham."

Benitez revealed that David Luiz has been suffering from tonsillitis but should be fine after his substitute outing at the weekend.

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