Rafa Benitez is confident he will be allowed to manage Chelsea his way after meeting Roman Abramovich for the first time. The Russian has a reputation for being the most ruthless owner in football, but the Spaniard described him as "a nice person" after they spent "two or three hours" dining together.
Working for Abramovich has been described by some as an impossible job due to his demands for both winning and attractive football, as well as rumoured interference in both transfers and team selection. But Benitez - who many believe is simply keeping the Chelsea hot-seat warm for Pep Guardiola - felt what Abramovich really wanted was a manager with "a clear idea".
"Twenty-six years in charge and I can guarantee I've had a lot of different owners, presidents and chairmen," Benitez said. "If you have confidence in yourself and explain yourself, everyone can understand.
"My impression of [Abramovich] is he's a nice person. You can talk with him. He likes to see you have a clear idea: 'I think it's white because of this or that', or, 'This is black because of this or that'."
"The priority of the owner is whether I'm a good manager, a good coach, if the players understand me, if we'll be a winning team. He was very clear with that. He's happy with the things I've said."
Benitez revealed Abramovich wanted to know "everything" about his new interim manager's ideas for Chelsea, who he claimed were just the kind of club he had "been waiting for" during his near two-year absence from the game.
The former Valencia and Inter Milan coach said: "I've been working, writing books, websites, analysing games, but I like to be on the pitch.
"When I was at home, I watched a lot of games every weekend. I take notes, write down the systems, make notes on the players. I have a folder with reports, a database on players. I have folders on almost every team I can watch on telly."
Demonstrating his passion for the minutiae of the game had not diminished, Benitez spent several minutes on Friday extolling the virtues of his controversial zonal-marking system using a bottle of energy drink, a bottle of water and an upturned glass.
Admitting he had even discussed the defensive set-up with Abramovich, he insisted he would not force it upon players it did not suit, especially ones who notoriously rebelled against it under Luiz Felipe Scolari. It is defending from open play that has been more of a problem for Chelsea.
"They are scoring goals and they have very good players in attack," Benitez said. "They have made some mistakes in defence. The balance between scoring and not conceding is not easy. You have to have a Plan A, a Plan B, a Plan C."
Benitez talks David Luiz, Terry, Ferguson and finishing second
Benitez was even confident he could transform David Luiz from an erratic liability into the kind of defender Chelsea thought they were getting when they paid £25m for him.
"He has made mistakes, but a lot of players have made mistakes," the 52-year-old remarked. "My belief is he's so good he will show this on the pitch all the time, with the help of the team, the staff and me."
Benitez played down the effect his jibes against Chelsea - while Liverpool manager - would have on his relationship with senior players like John Terry, Frank Lampard and Petr Cech. Revealing he had spoken at length with captain Terry, he said: "He's a winner. I'm a winner. It's simple."
Benitez reiterated that he also hoped that attitude would win over disgruntled fans, having vowed to stand up for Chelsea in the same way as he did for Liverpool. He was reluctant to stand up for himself after being branded "lucky" to land the Blues job by old foe Sir Alex Ferguson.
Insisting he did not enjoy such managerial skirmishes, he nevertheless said: "I like to talk about my team, about football, but if some people push you... if you want to win, maybe you have to push back."
Ahead of his first game in charge against Premier League champions and leaders Manchester City on Sunday, he added: "To be first is the only thing I understand. To be second is to be unhappy.
"I want to be first, to challenge, and I want to compete to win trophies. You can improve teams, but that's not the same as winning trophies. I like to win trophies."