Football: Rafa Benitez was on the verge of becoming Chelsea’s ninth manager in nine years today after the Blues parted company with club legend Roberto di Matteo.
The Italian was given his marching orders by owner Roman Abramovich in the early hours of this morning, following the Blues’ 3-0 Champions League thrashing by Juventus.
And with former Liverpool and Inter boss Benitez cutting short a trip to the United Arab Emirates in order to discuss the vacant post, a swift appointment seems likely.
The Spaniard was linked with the Chelsea job after Andre Villas-Boas left the club last term but reportedly turned down the offer of a temporary appointment.
This time, however, it is though he will leap at the opportunity to take the job until the end of the season, at which time Chelsea will seek to appoint his compatriot Josep Guardiola.
Benitez said: “In football, a lot of people are talking so we will see what happens in the next few days.
“I am looking for a club that can challenge for trophies and Chelsea is one of these clubs.”
He added: “I have to talk with my agent and see what he has been doing the last couple of days.
“But I am just trying to go to a team that can win.”
Di Matteo’s dismissal comes as something of a shock after he secured both the the Champions League and the FA Cup last term, as well as guiding Chelsea into the top three of the Premier League.
But after their defeat in Turin, which may see the Blues become the first Champions League holders to crash out before Christmas, Abramovich wasted little time in dismissing the Italian, reportedly instructing chairman Bruce Buck and chief executive Ron Gourlay to deliver the bad news.
A Chelsea statement read: “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.
“Roberto helped guide us to an historic Champions League victory and a seventh FA Cup. We will never forget the huge contribution he has made to this club’s history and he will always be welcome at Stamford Bridge.
“The club will be making an announcement shortly regarding a new first team manager.”