Chelsea playmaker Juan Mata has hailed Rafael Benitez, insisting his fellow Spaniard is a “great” manager.
The 53-year-old was appointed by the London club on an interim basis after UEFA Champions League-winning boss Roberto Di Matteo was relieved of his duties in November.
But his arrival was poorly received by a large section of the club’s support, with the former Liverpool coach being roundly booed throughout his first few fixtures at the helm.
However, with Chelsea’s bid for a top-four finish and UEFA Europa League glory having picked up pace of late, Mata believes his compatriot deserves praise.
“Rafa is a manager who has had great seasons at every club that he was at,” he said. “And since he came he’s just tried to do his best with the team, analysing the rivals, getting ready for every game and trying to do his best for the team.
“So for me and for the players I think he’s a great manager. We are now at the end of the season trying to be in the third position so that’s where we’re aiming and having a chance to win a trophy so maybe the season at the end will be good for us and for Rafa as well and that will be because of his job.”
The Spain international went on to lament his side’s failure to progress beyond the group stages when defending their UEFA Champions League crown this term.
“We were out from the group and every time I watched a game on TV from the Champions League I think it’s a shame,” he added.
“But on the other hand, I would rather be positive and think we have a chance to win another trophy as we did last season.
“So obviously to get out in the first group was a disappointment for us and the club but suddenly we have a chance. So you never know until the end and you now have another chance to win a big trophy.”