London - Newcastle great Alan Shearer said the Magpies had pulled off a "good coup" in appointing Rafael Benitez as their new manager.
The Spaniard has been given the task of keeping the north-east side, currently second bottom, in the lucrative Premier League with just 10 games of the season remaining.
Benitez was installed at St James' Park on Friday just hours after the Magpies sacked former manager and ex-England boss Steve McClaren.
Newcastle are just one point shy of safety and Shearer said Benitez could keep them in the top flight.
"I think it's a good coup for Newcastle," Shearer told BBC Sport. "I'm surprised, when you consider how much success he's had and the clubs he's been at.
"What's different about this appointment is that all the other managers that have been appointed under (owner) Mike Ashley have been in a position of weakness.
"(They have) not being able to name their terms, they've had to put up with a transfer system that hasn't benefited the club or themselves, and other things," the former England striker added.
"Whereas Rafa can come in, he can put down exactly what he wants, he's not a head coach, he's a manager, he can have the transfer system - both incomings and outgoings - and he can name all that before coming in."
Shearer, a boyhood Newcastle fan, found himself with a similar challenge in April 2009 when he became the manager at St James' Park with the club bottom of the table.
But Shearer's eight-game spell in charge could not prevent the club's relegation from the Premier League.
Asked if former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager Benitez had now taken on the hardest task of his career, Shearer replied: "Yes, to put it bluntly.
"It's a very tough challenge for him, he's never been in a relegation battle before.
"He's always managed top players and been very successful at doing that, but I think it's an excellent appointment," added Shearer, who scored a club record 206 goals in 10 years as a Newcastle player.
There was intense speculation that McClaren would be sacked following Newcastle's 3-1 home loss to Bournemouth last weekend and Shearer for one was not surprised to see him leave St James' Park.
"I don't think he can complain about what's happened because for the vast majority of this season Newcastle have been in the bottom three," Shearer said.
"They've been big spenders, so it's been a disaster really, from start to finish.
"When you look at the way he has been treated for the past four or five days it is not a surprise, it's a difficult situation for him."