Manager faces Manchester City confident he will leave the Stamford Bridge team in better shape than he found them
Rafael Benítez is confident he will have left a legacy at Chelsea when he departs the club on the expiry of his contract at the end of the season, pointing to key players at the club "growing and progressing" over his interim stewardship .
The Spaniard does not expect to be offered a longer-term deal to remain at Stamford Bridge but he is apparently satisfied with the progress he has been able to instigate. Chelsea visit Manchester City on Sunday knowing victory would take them to within a point of the Premier League champions, albeit still distant of Manchester United at the top, with Europa League and FA Cup campaigns offering a chance of silverware.
The side's inconsistent form has undermined their league challenge over Benítez's three months in charge, though the manager pointed to the form of the likes of César Azpilicueta and Victor Moses as evidence of progression.
"Analyse the squad at the beginning when we came here and the squad now," Benítez said. "Put everything together, including the number of games, the injuries, and we are going in the right direction. Still some people will expect more but the team is growing, getting better for this year and also for the future. I was coming here for a short time but I'm professional so I still think about the future and it's good to see the improvement.
"I have to do my job. My job, in this case, was to try to win and improve the players. I said before that Azpilicueta would get into the Spain team and he has [making his debut in the friendly against Uruguay in Doha earlier this month]. It was earlier than we were expecting but that's proof we're progressing. Victor Moses won the player of the tournament in the Africa Cup of Nations and that makes you very proud. When I say we're going in the right direction, others could see what it was like. Now, how is Victor Moses? Azpilicueta? David Luiz? [Frank] Lampard? How are they doing now? They've been growing and progressing and I'm really pleased with that."
Benítez, whose immediate priority remains a top-four finish, will consider his own options in June as he seeks a position at a club capable of challenging for honours, with moves having been mooted to the Bundesliga or Spain. Real Madrid, the club that nurtured him, have been suggested as a possible destination if José Mourinho leaves. The Portuguese has reiterated his desire to return to England at the end of the campaign and Chelsea and Manchester City are potential employers.
Benítez, however, opted against commenting on a possible vacancy at the Bernabéu "because they have a manager who is under contract," he said, "so out of respect. I am concentrating on my job and I finish my contract at the end of the season.
"I know what I can influence. For me it's about the improvement of some players, the way they do things on the pitch here. Players like Gary Cahill and others have improved a lot, understanding the game better and their movement on the pitch.
"I know what I can do. I cannot change the perception of certain people but a lot of others are saying that, in the circumstances, I'm doing a good job."