What next for Rafa Benitez?


Napoli advanced to the Europa League semi-finals as they beat Wolfsburg 6-3 on aggregate over two legs in the quarter final tie on Thursday night. The result sees the Italian side reach the last four of a major European Cup competition for the first time in 26 years since the glory days of Diego Maradona.

The Naples based outfit have a strong squad and the required ammunition to go all the way. However manager Rafa Benitez’s future at the club is uncertain. There have been widespread speculations that the Spaniard will not renew his contract in the summer and is holding out for a return to England.

It is also believed that Benitez has his differences with Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis over the club’s future and it would be in the best interest of either parties should he leave the Naples based outfit.

Ahead of Europa League quarter-final second leg match against Wolfsburg, Benitez said, “We want to get back to the Champions League, a competition that hands out money and prestige to a club.  I want to leave Napoli as high as possible in the table and in the Europa League final. If (Napoli’s) business-plan allows us to be competitive at the highest levels, I’ll sit down with my family and discuss our future.”

Should Benitez walk away from Napoli in the summer, we take a look on his possible destinations.

Manchester City: Thereis no doubt that Manuel Pellegrini’s job will be under intense scrutiny in the summer. City have fallen from Champs to Chumps and are now fighting for a Champions League berth for next season. It is no secret that the Etihad side want Pep Guardiola as their manager but the Spaniard is expected to see out his contract at Bayern Munich.

Thus Benitez, with all his experience from his managerial stints at Liverpool and Chelsea would be an excellent stop gap option. He would also fare well in the Champions League while keeping the side competitive in the Premier League. Though, it is not the ideal project that he would love, but Benitez could turn out to be the best option given his old relationship with City’s Football director Txiki Begiristain.

West Ham United: After a superb start to the season, the Hammers currently sit tenth in the Premier League standings and there is enough evidence that manager Sam Allardyce will be sacked in the summer. West Ham will be moving to the Olympic Stadium in the 2016-17 season and the club hierarchy have planned to introduce the cheapest season ticket in the top flight to fill the 60,000 stadium. The Hammers also have the proper finances and Benitez would love to embrace the project.

However, the question is can they afford to hire the Spaniard who charges €6.9m for his services. If Benitez is given the time and proper financial backing, we could see West Ham challenging for a European place while he is in charge.

Brendan Rodgers is under increasing pressure after a disastrous campaign and could also be relieved of his duties by the owners when they hold showdown talks in the summer. But will Fenway Sports Group look to bring benitez back to Anfield? Eminent Spanish journalist Guillem Balague pointed out, “In the case of Liverpool, I still think the board feels he’s too big for them – not for the club but for the directors.”

Newcastle too have been linked with Benitez but it would be a recipe for disaster if the Spaniard would have to work with owner Mike Ashley.

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