Unpopular Rafael Benitez checks in at Chelsea until the end of the season - BUT could stay long-term if he is successful

Former Liverpool manager replaces Di Matteo on interim basis but will be given chance to establish himself

Rafael Benitez was confirmed last night as the interim successor to Roberto Di Matteo as manager at Chelsea, with scope for the former Liverpool Champions League winner to stay in the job long-term if he is successful.

Benitez, 52, agreed a contract that lasts until the end of the season and although in different circumstances he would not have been the club's first choice, he will be given the chance to establish himself with the option of a further 12 months if successful. The club said in a statement: "The owner [Roman Abramovich] 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."

Benitez will meet the team today for the first time after Di Matteo was sacked at around 4am yesterday morning when the squad arrived back at the training ground from Gatwick airport following their return from Turin.

The 3-0 defeat by Juventus, which leaves them on the brink of elimination from the Champions League group stages, was the final straw for Abramovich and the club's board. Pep Guardiola was their first choice but the former Barcelona coach will not abandon his year-long sabbatical in New York. The Borussia Dortmund coach, Jürgen Klopp, is also admired at the club, so too Roberto Martinez at Wigan Athletic and the Germany national team coach, Joachim Löw. During the summer Di Matteo was charged with giving the club a distinctive attacking style. There were doubts over whether he could achieve that and over the course of the season the club's hierarchy have increasingly felt the team lacked an identity and style.

He had won the Champions League employing a defensive approach that the club accepted at the time as pragmatic. The defeat by Juventus, a poor, incoherent display, was the confirmation the club needed to make the change. It left Chelsea with just two wins from their last eight games.

However, the club felt that a messy battle over compensation for any of their key targets would have proved problematic. They wanted a manager in place in time for Sunday's crucial Premier League game against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.

The club accept privately that Benitez is not popular with Chelsea fans, because of his association with Liverpool and the two clubs' intense rivalry when Jose Mourinho was in charge. However, they believe that Benitez is capable of implementing the kind of distinctive style and approach they want.

Chelsea felt they had no option but to dismiss Di Matteo with news of their approach to Benitez having leaked. The 41-year-old looked grim-faced as he boarded the flight back to Gatwick along with his players, members of the press and guests including former Chelsea striker Andrei Shevchenko.

In a statement last night, Di Matteo said he had a "deep and unreserved" passion for Chelsea and would "treasure for the rest of my life" the club's victory in the Champions League last season. Should Southampton sack Nigel Adkins, Di Matteo, who is a close friend of Saints executive chairman Nicola Cortese, would be a prime candidate for the job.

Juan Mata said it had been "a difficult day" for the club. "With him as a manager, we won our first Champions League," he wrote on his Facebook page.

Chelsea are bracing themselves for the Football Association's decision on whether to charge referee Mark Clattenburg over Chelsea's allegations of racism, likely to be today. Didier Drogba has requested Fifa permission for a loan outside the transfer window from club Shanghai Shenhua, whose season has finished, with Chelsea a possible destination.

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits