London – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted he was surprised by Wednesday's appointment of Rafael Benitez as Chelsea's interim manager until the end of the season.
The former Liverpool manager will replace the sacked Roberto Di Matteo at the Premier League club, having refused a similar short-term role last March when Di Matteo took over from Andre Villas Boas.
“Rafael Benitez is a guy who has a (good) record and who is a manager of stature,” Wenger said.
“It is a surprise that he is appointed for such a short time (and) I'm surprised that he accepted.”
In his six years as Liverpool manager, Benitez had several run-ins with Chelsea, and former Chelsea and Liverpool midfielder Nigel Spackman believes the Spaniard will have a fight to win over Chelsea fans.
“Benitez has got a great CV and a good record but the only way he will win the Stamford Bridge crowd over is getting the results,” Spackman told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“Now he has to focus on trying to win the Premier League. He is the interim manager but if he does a good job maybe he will get it for longer.”
But another former Liverpool midfielder, Dietmar Hamann, believes Benitez will do a good job at Chelsea.
“He is a very talented and outstanding manager,” he said. “He's a very meticulous worker and he puts a lot of emphasis on tactical exercises.”
Meanwhile, Wenger led the chorus of managers and players to express their disappointment at Di Matteo's sacking after eight months in charge and just six months after lifting the Champions League and FA Cup trophies.
“I find it surprising and very sad,” Wenger said.
“I believe that it's important on our side to show loyalty. Di Matteo has come in, in a difficult situation and he has won the Champions League and the FA Cup.
“He has done well and he wasn't given any time at all this season.
“Its a complete surprise to me. I followed the newspapers a little bit at the start of the week, and I thought you were wrongly informed.
“Once again, I have to say you were well informed. It's a complete surprise and it's very sad news,” Wenger said.
Di Matteo said he was proud of the work he had done in his short time in charge.
“I am extremely proud of the successes and trophies that we were able to bring to the club,” the Italian said.
“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.
“Lifting Chelsea's first Champions League trophy, in Munich, was the best achievement in the club's 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.” – Sapa-dpa