SERIE A: Rafael Benitez signs two-year deal with SSC Napoli


Wed, May 29, 2013 - Page 18

Rafael Benitez was appointed coach of Serie A side SSC Napoli on Monday, the club’s president announced.

The 53-year-old Spaniard — whose previous experience in Serie A was a painful, short-lived spell with Inter — had been widely expected to be named and a tweet by Napoli supremo Aurelio de Laurentiis confirmed that to be the case.

“Rafa Benitez is the new coach of Napoli,” tweeted De Laurentiis, whose side finished runners-up in Serie A. “He is a man of experience and a true leader.”

Benitez, who had also been linked with French champions Paris Saint-Germain, had a successful spell in charge of Chelsea after replacing the sacked UEFA Champions League winning coach Roberto di Matteo.

The Spaniard guided Chelsea to the Europa League crown and also helped them qualify for next season’s Champions League after being brought in on a short-term basis.

However, despite being popular with owner Roman Abramovich, he never won over the supporters, who verbally abused him from the stands from the start.

The Chelsea fans yearned for the return of their adored Jose Mourinho, after he largely failed at Real Madrid, and appear likely to get their wish.

According to the Spanish press, Benitez was to sign a two-year contract with the option of extending it by a further year and an annual salary of 3.5 million euros (US$4.5 million).

His first job at Napoli will be to try and persuade fans favorite and leading scorer Edinson Cavani to stay.

The Uruguay international, who topped the Serie A scoring charts with 29, is one of the most sought after players in Europe, with both Real Madrid and 2011-2012 English champions Manchester City keen to secure his services.

City, who surrendered their title tamely to city rivals Manchester United last season, have offered money and Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko as payment for Cavani.

Benitez replaces Walter Mazzarri, who has been appointed coach of Inter.

Ironically, Benitez’s last Italian adventure was at Inter, but it lasted only six months and ended just after having won the FIFA Club World Cup.

His team had struggled in the league and he had forced officials’ hands by telling them to strengthen his squad or find another solution, which they did.

Despite not always being popular with fans because of his reserved exterior, Benitez has a good record.

He won two La Liga titles and the Europa League with Valencia, while he led Liverpool to Champions League success in 2004-2005.