Premier League

Rafa Benitez appointed as the new interim Chelsea boss until end of the season

Rafa Benitez: New Chelsea manager on an interim basis until end of season

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Rafa Benitez has been appointed as the interim Chelsea manager until the end of the season.

Benitez replaces Roberto Di Matteo, who was sacked following Chelsea's disappointing 3-0 defeat at Juventus which leaves them on the brink of being knocked out of the Champions League.

Sky Sports understands Chelsea made an approach to Pep Guardiola earlier this week but the former Barcelona boss insisted he will not be returning to work until 2013.

Former Liverpool boss Benitez cut short an engagement in the Middle East to fly to London for talks and he has been appointed as "interim" manager until the end of the current campaign.

"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."

Chelsea FC

A statement on the club's website said: "Chelsea Football Club can confirm Rafael Benitez has been appointed interim first-team manager until the end of the season.

"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.

"The 52-year-old Spaniard is due to meet the players at the training ground in Cobham tomorrow (Thursday).

"The two-time UEFA Manager of the Year comes with outstanding pedigree. He began his managerial career in his homeland, most notably at Valencia where he built a reputation as one of Europe's top coaches by winning the Spanish League twice and the UEFA Cup.

"He then spent six years at Liverpool and led them to their fifth European Cup and an FA Cup."

The Spaniard becomes the ninth manager under Russian owner Abramovich.

An extraordinary 24 hours started with Di Matteo axeing Fernando Torres from his starting XI in Turin.

Rafa the new Chelsea gaffer

Di Matteo was then fired in the early hours of Wednesday morning, with Benitez appointed in the early evening.

And the new man will now be reunited with Torres, the striker he turned into a £50m player at Anfield.

The length of Benitez's contract appears the clearest indication yet of owner Roman Abramovich's determination to land Pep Guardiola once the former Barcelona boss completes his one-year sabbatical.

But that failed to deter Benitez, who will look to convince Chelsea or another big club to give him a longer-term deal.

It is impossible not to deduce part of Benitez's appeal to Abramovich was his relationship with Torres.

Benitez told Sport360 shortly before his appointment: "I think you can see in his face that he is almost trying too hard. But I think the potential is still there.

"The problem with some players is that they are doing so well in a team and the understanding is so good that it is difficult to replicate that in another team.

RAFA AT LIVERPOOL

  • Games: 350
  • Won: 194
  • Drawn: 77
  • Lost: 79
  • Win %: 55.43

"Sometimes, it is a question of time, but he is a good player, is keen to learn and is a good professional."

Di Matteo finally lost patience with Torres in his last match in charge but he expressed few regrets about his unparalleled eight-month tenure last night.

"It was an honour for me to be appointed manager of a club that I loved playing for and one that is so close to my heart," he said in a statement issued by the League Managers Association.

"I am extremely proud of the successes and trophies that we were able to bring to the club in recent months.

"Lifting Chelsea's first Champions League trophy, in Munich, was the best achievement in club history and without doubt the highlight of my career to date, both as a player and manager. It is a memory I will treasure for the rest of my life.

"I have a deep and unreserved passion for Chelsea Football Club and I would like to sincerely thank all of the staff, my players and of course the Chelsea fans, for their tremendous and unconditioned support in the intense time I have been the manager at the Bridge. I wish all of them every success for the rest of the season and beyond."

Is Rafael Benitez the right man for Chelsea?

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