Rafael Benitez moves closer to Real Madrid

Napoli coach Rafael Benitez has confirmed he will leave the club after Sunday’s final Serie A game against Lazio.

The announcement was made earlier today during a joint press conference with club president Aurelio de Laurentiis, who thanked Benitez for his efforts and announced that a search for the coach’s replacement had already began.

“A year ago he had already thought about leaving,” De Laurentiis said. “Then, he made me understand that there was no chance of him continuing because he wants to be near his family and we started the search to find another coach. We are very grateful to him.”

Benitez himself thanked the club for its support and went on to say that his time in Italy had come to an end.

“As you all know my contract ends on Sunday,” he said. “My cycle has ended and I will leave Napoli at the level it deserves.

“It is always said to leave a place where people want you. But being away from my family for two years made me think to leave.

“Two weeks ago I spoke to my wife and had the opportunity to stay but I could not convince her. The key has always been the family.”

News of Benitez’s departure from the Italian side will come as no surprise since the Spanish tactician has been earmarked as Carlo Ancelotti’s replacement at Real Madrid by club president Florentino Perez.

Benitez, a Real Madrid fan, started his coaching career with the club’s youth team and served as Vicente del Bosque’s assistant with the first-team in 1994. The 55-year-old has also coached Valencia, Liverpool, Inter Milan and Chelsea.

After two years and two titles (the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italia) with Napoli, it has been widely reported that Benitez will return to Spain to fulfill his lifelong dream of managing Real Madrid next week.

But first, Benitez will prepare Napoli for their final Serie A match against Lazio, which has heavy implications towards the club’s Champions League qualification for next season.

The Azzurri enter Sunday’s game knowing a win will secure third place and qualify the club for the Champions League play-off round in August, as only the top three qualify in Italy.


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