Roberto Di Matteo has spoken of his pride at being Chelsea manager just hours after he was sacked by the Barclays Premier League club.
Di Matteo lost his job in the wake of Tuesday night's 3-0 Champions League defeat to Juventus in Turin. The Italian was replaced by former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez who has been appointed as interim first-team manager until the end of the season.
Di Matteo spent eight months in charge at Stamford Bridge winning both the FA Cup and for the first time in the club's history, the Champions League. "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," he said in a statement issued by the League Managers Association.
The statement continued: "I am extremely proud of the successes and trophies that we were able to bring to the club in recent months.
"Lifting Chelsea's first Champions League trophy, in Munich, was the best achievement in club 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.
"I have a deep and unreserved passion for Chelsea football club and I would like to sincerely thank all of the staff, my players and of course the Chelsea fans, for their tremendous and unconditioned support in the intense time I have been the manager at the Bridge. I wish all of them every success for the rest of the season and beyond."
The chief executive of the LMA, Richard Bevan paid tribute to the job Di Matteo did in west London. "The LMA shares Roberto's disappointment following Chelsea's decision to relieve him of his managerial duties," he said.
"What cannot be questioned is Roberto's passion for the club and the honesty and integrity he has shown throughout his time in charge. His record of a Champions League title and FA Cup triumph, speaks for itself, and he can be incredibly proud of what he has achieved in such a short space of time."
"Roberto has received a huge number of messages of support from across the game; from other managers, coaches, administrators at other clubs, Chelsea supporters and the Chelsea players themselves.
"I know he is extremely appreciative of receiving so much support and solidarity, and it demonstrates the high regard and respect that those in the game have for Roberto."