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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman, Peter Capaldi and Nick Frost star in the Doctor Who Christmas Special, Last Christmas
TV
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

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran