With the future of Luciano Spalletti growing increasingly uncertain, Napoli have begun sounding out a potential new coach for next season and are ready to bring Rafael Benitez back to the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Spalletti is set to quit the club just weeks after leading them to a first Serie A title since 1990, with the ex-AS Roma and Inter coach at loggerheads with president Aurelio De Laurentiis.
The Partenopei are now expected to be in the market for a new tactician and Benitez is considered to be the dream appointment of De Laurentiis, having worked at the club from 2013 until 2015, lifting the Coppa Italia in his debut season.
Why might Spalletti leave?
Spalletti is contracted until the end of next season and De Laurentiis had been keen to extend this deal, but it has been reported that the coach is more reluctant to commit to his future and was not satisfied with the president’s public attempts to tie him to a new contract.
It appears that Spalletti feels he has accomplished all that he can with this Napoli team after just two years in the job, and is ready to move on after clinching the scudetto.
In his press conference before a 3-1 win over Inter on Matchday 36, Spalletti said when asked about his future: “The club will say it, not me. We discussed it at dinner. I am not the one who has to say it. We worked everything out in that dinner we had a week ago, I clarified everything that evening. If you want to keep guessing, cold, warm or hot, you can, but it’s all been defined.”
Benitez being lined up for second shot
Should Spalletti depart, Napoli are keen to bring Benitez back and the Spaniard enjoys a positive relationship with De Laurentiis, who credits him with laying the foundations for the Azzurri’s continuous success over the past decade.
Meanwhile, the president is also intrigued by the prospect of having Benitez at the helm with a far more competitive squad at his disposal than in his first spell.
The pair remain in touch and regularly exchange communication, whilst Benitez would be available as a free agent after leaving Everton in January 2022.
Gasperini finally ready for Napoli chance?
However, De Laurentiis may instead opt to look even further back into Napoli‘s past and make an approach for Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini instead.
The ex-Genoa coach appeared to be on the verge of taking over at Napoli in 2012, only for De Laurentiis to pull the plug at the last minute and appoint Walter Mazzarri instead.
It is felt that Gasperini would be a popular and astute appointment for Napoli this time around, although it would require work in the transfer market to provide a defence capable of playing to his three-man system.
The more realistic options
Whilst Benitez and Gasperini remain De Laurentiis‘ dream choices, Gazzetta suggests that he may need to search elsewhere for more realistic candidates, with Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Italiano being named.
After a slow start to the season, Italiano has led the Viola to the finals of both the Coppa Italia and the Europa Conference League, and his prowess in knockout football appeals to Napoli, whilst his wage demands of €3.5 million per year are in line with De Laurentiis‘ budget.
Another option is Bologna coach Thiago Motta, whilst the likes of Antonio Conte and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp are immediately ruled out of the running, and Brighton coach Roberto De Zerbi is thought to be too expensive.