BIRMINGHAM, England — Roberto Di Matteo was hired Friday by Aston Villa, ensuring there will be two Champions League-winning managers in English soccer’s second tier next season after Rafa Benitez opted to stay at Newcastle.
The 46-year-old Italian, who lifted the Champions League trophy and FA Cup with Chelsea in 2012, takes over a Villa side that finished bottom of the Premier League last season and is waiting for soccer authorities to approve a new owner.
Chinese businessman Xia Jiantong has agreed a deal to buy the Birmingham-based club for $87 million, hoping Villa makes an instant return to the Premier League.
"It’s a wonderful honour for me to become manager of this great football club and I’m looking forward to the challenge of taking Aston Villa back to its rightful place," Di Matteo said on Villa’s website.
The League Championship is still among the top five best attended leagues in European soccer despite being a second-tier competition, with games broadcast internationally.
Benitez, who steered Liverpool to Champions League glory in 2005, announced last week that he would be staying at Newcastle.
Di Matteo has experience of the second tier, after guiding West Bromwich Albion to the Premier League in 2010.