Chelsea Appoint Rafa Benitez As Manager

Chelsea have appointed Spaniard Rafael Benitez as interim manager at Stamford Bridge until the end of the season.

The 52-year-old, who spent six years at Liverpool where he won the Champions League, will meet the Chelsea players at their training ground in Cobham on Thursday.

A statement from the club said: "The owner and the board believe that in Benitez we have a manager with significant experience at the highest level of football, who can come in and immediately help deliver our objectives."

Mr Benitez is a two-time Uefa Manager of the Year. He began his coaching career in Spain where he won the Primera Liga with Valencia. He has also managed in Italy with Inter Milan.

Mr Benitez, speaking in Abu Dhabi, told Sport360: "I am looking for a club that can challenge for trophies and Chelsea is one of these clubs."

But there was a mixed reaction from fans, with many pointing to his association with rivals Liverpool.

One user on unofficial Chelsea fan forum CFCnet, thevelourfog, wrote: "Thought I'd be furious, but I'm just deflated. A nightmare realised."

Another, chelsea_matt, wrote: "I'm delighted that we've got him - I think he's a good tactician and knows the league."

It comes after Roberto Di Matteo was sacked just six months after winning the Champions League and FA Cup with the west London club.

The Italian got his marching orders less than 12 hours after Chelsea lost 3-0 to Juventus in Turin - putting their defence of the Champions League in jeopardy.

Owner Roman Abramovich instructed chairman Bruce Buck and chief executive Ron Gourlay to deliver the bad news, which they did at around 4am at Chelsea's training ground following the team's return to London.

It is understood Di Matteo was far from shocked by the decision and had already said what amounted to a farewell to some of his players earlier.

A statement from Chelsea said: "The team's recent performances and results have not been good enough and the owner and the board felt that a change was necessary now to keep the club moving in the right direction as we head into a vitally important part of the season."

Chelsea have now had nine managers in the last eight years. Others include Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti, both of whom won the Premier League title and the FA Cup.