Spanish midfielder Juan Mata has been the first Chelsea player to comment on the surprise news that Chelsea parted company with manager Roberto Di Matteo at 4am this morning.

The former Valencia midfielder excelled under the guidance of the Italian manager and was one an instrumental figure in helping Chelsea win the Champions League last season.

Juan Mata
Juan Mata has excelled at Chelsea under Di Matteo [Reuters]

Mata had once again started the season in impressive fashion and was always a regular in the first team under Di Matteo.

The Spain international has admitted that it has been a difficult day since learning of the decision by chairman Roman Abramovich and was quick to heap praise on the Chelsea 'legend'.

"It's been a difficult day. Roberto Di Matteo is no longer our manager. I would like to thank him for all this time with us and wish him the best of luck for the future," Mata wrote on his facebook page.

"As a player he has been a legend for the 'Blues'. With him as a manager we won our first Champions League. He will always be remembered. Good luck Robbie!"

The search for a new manager has already begun, with Mata's fellow Spaniard Rafael Benitez one of the early frontrunners to land the role on an interim basis.

The former Valencia manager had already left to join Liverpool by the time that Mata arrived at the Mestalla but he is highly regarded in Spain for helping the club win two league titles.

Benitez earlier stated that he would be interested in taking the Chelsea job and is due to fly back to the UK late on Thursday when he is likely to meet with officials from Chelsea.