ROME (AFP) – Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez is on the brink of joining Napoli for next season, according to Italian press reports on Friday.
Television channel Sky Sport claimed Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis had agreed a two-year deal worth 3.5 million euros a season with the Spaniard, with an option for a third year.
But De Laurentiis himself denied he had ever mentioned Benitez, although he let it be known that the press were barking up the right tree.
“I didn’t say a name,” he told Rai Sport 1. “Today (Friday) in London I met with some people and I told (Sky): ‘I’ve offered myself a present’, but without mentioning a name, UEFA’s rules don’t allow that,”
Benitez, who last week led Chelsea to Europa League glory, is still under contract with the Londoners until the end of their tour to the United States.
Should he sign for the southern club he would replace Walter Mazzarri, widely rumoured to be heading to Inter Milan next season.
Italian press reports claimed Inter have fired Andrea Stramaccioni and will soon make the news official.
Mazzarri has already confirmed he will leave Napoli following four successful years in charge in which he twice led them into the Champions League.
Ironically, Benitez’s last Italian adventure was at Inter but lasted only six months and ended just after having won the 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.
Although his joining Chelsea was hugely unpopular with many fans, the 53-year-old has a good record.
He won two Spanish titles and the Europa League with Valencia while he led Liverpool to Champions League success in 2005.
He is rumoured to also be wanted by Paris Saint-Germain, whose current coach Carlo Ancelotti seems likely to leave for Real Madrid, where Jose Mourinho’s departure has already been announced, ahead of a suspected return to Chelsea.