Luciano Spalletti has announced that he will leave Napoli at the end of the Serie A season after winning their first league title since the days of Diego Maradona.
Speaking at an event at the Italian national team’s Coverciano training centre, Spalletti said that he would take time away from football and would not be immediately moving to coach another team.
“I need to take some time to rest because I’m pretty tired,” Spalletti said.
“I don’t know if you can call it a year’s sabbatical but I won’t be working. I won’t be coaching Napoli or any other team.”
The 64-year-old guided Napoli to their third Scudetto — their first since 1990 — with five matches to play after a magical campaign in which his team played some of the most thrilling football in Europe.
Napoli’s title triumph was the crowning glory of Spalletti’s long and eventful coaching career which had brought plenty of plaudits but few trophies.
It was his first Italian league crown and first trophy of any sort in Italy since the Italian Cup won at Roma in 2008.
He did win league titles in Russia with Zenit Saint Petersburg in 2010 and 2012.
Spalletti will bow out as Napoli coach on Sunday evening when the newly-crowned champions host relegated Sampdoria at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
Italian media report that former Barcelona and Spain coach Luis Enrique is the favourite to replace Spalletti next season.
– ‘Free man’ –
Spalletti’s departure had been expected as both he and Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis hinted recently that a hugely successful two-year spell in southern Italy was coming to an end.
On Sunday De Laurentiis told Italian state broadcaster RAI that Spalletti had asked to go on sabbatical despite having a year left on his contract.
“He’s a free man, he’s given us something and I thank him, it’s right that he does what he wants,” he said on current affairs programme Che Tempo Che Fa.
Napoli exercised an option to extend Spalletti’s contract until the end of next season, but the manner in which it was done — via email and without discussion between the two parties — reportedly irked the coach.
Spalletti will effectively be on gardening leave for next season and will return to his vineyard in Tuscany, as he did during the two-year period before he took charge at Napoli when he was still under contract with Inter Milan after being replaced by Antonio Conte.
The dominant fashion in which Napoli won the title, against all pre-season predictions, led Napoli fans to hope of a new period of glory similar the one led by Maradona in the 1980s.
Pushed on by attacking talents Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Napoli also reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time in their history.
Osimhen called Spalletti “a genius” in a recent interview with France Football and the veteran coach leaving now casts doubt over whether Napoli’s star players like Osimhen and defender Kim Min-jae will stay next season.