Benitez issues Inter ultimatum

ABU DHABI - Rafael Benitez, buoyed by Inter Milan's Club World Cup victory on Saturday, told the European champions to back him with new signings or consider whether they wanted to keep him as coach.

Benitez, who came into the tournament with his job on the line, stressed that his relationship with club president Massimo Moratti was good before listing three options Inter had after a 3-0 win over Africa's TP Mazembe earned them the title.

"One, 100 percent support for the coach and buy four or five players - to build a stronger team with competition among the players to be able to carry on winning matches and trophies," a bristling Benitez said at a news conference.

"Two, carry on like this without a project, without planning and go ahead with one person to blame, for the whole season getting to May this way.

"The third is to speak to my agent, reach an agreement if there is not this support. Simple."

While Inter were celebrating a third world club title and fifth trophy this year after goals from Goran Pandev, Samuel Eto'o and Jonathan Biabiany, their Serie A form is a worry with the champions in seventh, 13 points behind leaders AC Milan.

The coach's comments brought an immediate response from Moratti, who praised Benitez for the way he masterminded the win but said  it was not the time to talk about new signings.

"It's not the moment to ask (for reinforcements) and it is not something we will decide now," Moratti told reporters.

"He managed the game very well, I saw his handiwork."

INJURY TROUBLE

Benitez has struggled for results with a squad plagued by injuries since replacing Jose Mourinho in the close-season.

Victories over Asian champions Seongnam of South Korea on Wednesday and the DR Congo's Mazembe, both by 3-0 scorelines, gave Benitez the results he needed to state his case after intense criticism of the team's season so far.

"I want the support of the club and the players... I'm a professional who has worked (in football) for 25 years so I want respect and support," he told the post-match news conference.

The Spaniard said Inter had spent nothing to strengthen the squad this season after he had initially asked for three or four new players to ensure the team improved.

"After winning so much the competition among players will be positive," said Benitez.

Benitez concluded there must be a reason for a squad with so many injuries so he ordered a scientific study.

"It's clear that this team has all the risk factors," he said. "The first is age - there are 15 players over 30."

Players had not had sufficient rest after the World Cup in South Africa which brought more risk of injury, he added.

"The players were squeezed to the maximum," he said.


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