TERRIFIED Chelsea fans are panicking.
Many reckon Rafael Benitez’s imminent departure from Newcastle is bad news.
The Spaniard, 59, will leave the Magpies on June 30 when his contract expires after the club could not convince him to extend his stay.
And plenty of Blues supporters reckon it means Benitez will get the Chelsea job.
The bookmakers agree. He is now the second-favourite at 4-1.
Club legend Frank Lampard, 41, remains the heavy, odds-on favourite.
He was expected to take over at Stamford Bridge if Roman Abramovich made the right offer.
But now the availability of Benitez for free – rather than the £4million Chelsea would need to pay Derby in compensation – could see the Spaniard replace Maurizio Sarri in West London.
And the mere suggestion has got many on Twitter very worried indeed.
One wrote: “I really don’t want rafa benitez again. Please don’t do this to me. Lampard is the way forward.”
Another said: “Benitez has always made it pretty clear he doesn’t like Chelsea, our fans and criticised the likes of Lampard and Drogba.
“We made it VERY clear we do not like him. Surely that’s case closed.”
A third added: “Being days away from a historic return of a Frank Lampard as manger of Chelsea, to appointing Rafa Benitez on a 2 year deal would be the most Chelsea thing to do, Ever.”
User @IlloriGiga tweeted: “In my mind here’s what happens to #cfc, Lampard sensibly chooses Derby for his careers sake and we get stuck having to hire Benitez….cue 7th position in the league next year and early exits from all cup competitions.”
And finally, one dramatic supporter said: “Imagine after all these links with Lampard we end up with benitez. I would dig my own grave.”
But while plenty were dreading the prospect, others were far more open to the idea of Benitez getting the job – albeit only for 12 months.
The Spaniard came in at Chelsea in 2012 when Roberto Di Matteo was sacked and led the Blues to Europa League glory.
And the idea of Rafa taking charge for a year would allow Lampard another season at Derby to develop as a manager and be more prepared for the job of leading such a big club.
One said: “Hugely unpopular opinion, but if we don’t appoint Lampard would like it to be Benitez.
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“I think he’s a very good manager, I don’t care about the fact he used to manage Liverpool.”
Another added: “As much as I have my heart set on seeing Lampard in the Chelsea dug out next season, Benitez would still be an amazing choice if we chose to go for managerial experience.”
And a third wrote: “Putting aside the romanticism of having a club legend return to manage the club AND the extreme disgust/hate for the other man…on experience and quality alone, Benitez > Lampard.”