Rafa Benitez Shown the Exit Door
Former Liverpool and Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez has been unceremoniously sacked by Italian club Napoli after just a month in the job, just a few weeks before the new Serie A season is due to begin. Having taken Chelsea to European success in the Europa League last season, the Spaniard was hired by the owner Aurelio De Laurentis to replace Walter Mazzari, who left for giants Internazionale. However, De Laurentis, famed for being a colourful character, has seen due reason to remove the new gaffer from his position, due to an unknown reason.
Often when the reason isn’t blindingly obvious as to why a manager has been sacked, explanations can be mixed, and often a case of Chinese whispers. Whilst some rumours are saying that Benitez had a major bust-up with captain Paolo Cannavaro over training methods, some rumours are also stating that the 53-year-old was caught in a compromising position with the wife of De Laurentis – something that was always going to be difficult for the club president to overlook.
During his admittedly short tenure in Naples, the former Real Madrid man certainly managed to set up the squad well for the upcoming season. Despite losing star Uruguayan to Paris Saint-Germain (which had been expected for a couple of seasons now), the club brought in some high-quality players, whilst remaining within their financial means. Jose Callejon, Raul Albiol and Gonzalo Higuain are a trio who joined from Real Madrid, along with players such as Dries Mertens joining the ranks of the Serie A club. This has left the club in a strong position, having had players such as the Slovakian Marek Hamsik already in the squad.
A number of names have already been linked with the job in Naples. Jupp Heynckes has reportedly been shortlisted – despite retiring after winning the treble with Bayern Munich at the end of last season, and being replaced with Pep Guardiola. Former Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion manager Roberto Di Matteo has also been labelled a leading contender, as has recently sacked Sunderland manager Paulo Di Canio. However, one shock inclusion is the former England international, Mike Bassett, who has been out of work since leaving his post with the English national team over a decade ago.
Whoever does get appointed will certainly be expected to bring success to the Stadio San Paolo, after a couple of successful years for the Naples team. Whilst Turin side Juventus are still most people’s title favourites, the general consensus is that Napoli could be one of the sides to spring a surprise this season, and are perhaps Juve’s most worthy contenders for the Serie A crown.