Rafael Benitez has confirmed that he will be leaving Napoli following the Serie A final match against Lazio on Sunday (24/5). The former coach has been heavily linked with the manager’s job at Real Madrid following
Carlo Ancelloti’s sacking on Monday after his two seasons at Bernabeu. Benitez admitted that it is always sad to leave a place where “people treat you well.”
Benítez, who had a coaching career in Real’s youth setup in the 1990s, made the announcement at a news conference with Napoli’s president, Aurelio De Laurentiis.
“I want to thank the club, its president and the fans for what you have done for me. I want to say goodbye to this club and I want to end my cycle here with a victory and a place in the qualifying round of the Champions League,” stated Benitez after the confirmation of his departure.
Benitez refused to discuss his future and the prospect of taking charge at Real Madrid, where he had stints as a youth coach, Under-19 coach and assistant first-team coach in the 1990s. If Benitez does become Real boss, it means that he will return to manage in his homeland for the first time since leaving Valencia to take responsibility of Liverpool in 2004. With Valencia,
Benitez won two La Liga titles and the UEFA Cup, while led Liverpool to Champions League glory in 2005. While Napoli won the Italian Cup and Italian Super Cup during Benitez’s two years in charge.
Napoli, in fourth, host third-placed Lazio in their last game of the Serie A season with a Champions League place at stake.
The Spaniard claimed being away from his family for two years was a key factor of his departure and that he made the decision together with his wife a few weeks ago. “It was clear that my time here was finished and that I needed to look for something else for the future.”
In the summer, the former Liverpool manager will be out of contract with Napoli and has decided to leave the club despite winning the Italian Super Cup with Napoli last month. He is now tipped to return to Spain as a replacement for Ancelotti, who left the Santiago Bernabéu this week with a year of his contract remaining.
While Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis commented that he was not surprised that Benitez was leaving the club. “Rafa told me immediately after he agreed to stay on last summer that this would be his last campaign because his family wanted him nearby,” he said. “I want to thank Rafa, a coach that I really wanted two years ago.”