Can Benitez succeed at Napoli?
Published: 30.06.13 / Written by: David Gold
Rafa Benitez craved a big job after leaving Chelsea and after enduring one of the most difficult assignments any manager could wish to take on, he was due a break.
Benitez walked into the lionís den, with a fanbase who hated him already, and an owner who fired one coach after winning the clubís first title in 50 years and then adding another, another coach for winning the Champions League with too much good luck, and another for changing things too quickly, after having been instructed to do that by the owner.
So Benitez did very well to come out of his assignment successfully. He guided Chelsea to third in the league, saving their season as for much of it they looked weaker than Arsenal and Tottenham. They came on strong at the end though. He also won them the Europa League and so Chelsea achieved all the objectives set out for him at the start. Sure, there were some setbacks in cups, but they were at the beginning, rather than the end for the most part.
Now Benitez is in at Napoli to replace Walter Mazzarri. This is no easy job. Mazzarri has done remarkably well, guiding the team to finish second last year ahead of AC Milan. They have gatecrashed the elite of Juve, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Roma and Lazio and with some style too. Napoli have been fantastic recently, and this year was arguably their best since the days of Diego Maradona.
These days their messiah is Edinson Cavani, who seems likely to leave the club this summer. But that will give Napoli money to spend and they are already looking at how to do just that. Fernando Torres, Thomas Vermaelen and Martin Skrtel have all been linked. Even Luis Suarez has been considered apparently, and actually it is not so fanciful, given that Liverpool arenít even playing in Europe. Moving to Napoli would ensure Suarez plays in the Champions League, gets away from the hateful English press and continues to have a team built around him.
It still seems unlikely. But either way Benitez must find a way to continue Napoliís good recent success. Keeping them in the Champions League will be one thing. If he can do that it will be an excellent achievement given who they are up against. One issue he will have to deal with is formation Ė Napoli play 3-5-2 usually, but Benitez probably will want to change that to a system he prefers with a back four. If Benitez can be a success he can restore his image in Italy, where he spent an unhappy short spell with Inter Milan. Having succeeded in Spain and England, this is a major test now for the Spanish coach.
With a reputation that is being rehabilitated, it may be make or break time for Benitez. Often derided despite an excellent managerial record, Benitez has been notoriously unwilling to take a job with a team he considers less than his own profile. And you canít exactly blame him either Ė certainly he can afford to wait for such a role. But his ability to get the biggest jobs may well depend on how he does on this next major assignment.