Rafael Benitez has never exactly been adored. At Valencia was where the fans sung his name in the most adoring tones, but at Liverpool and in particularly at Chelsea he was never one for universal popularity. Nonetheless his imminent departure from Napoli in the summer should send sadness reverberating around the Stadio San Paolo.
His time in Naples has been predominantly successful. Though unable to keep the likes of Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani out of Paris Saint-Germain’s greedy hands, there has been enough positivity and silverware to show why exactly he should remain at the club and why the club hierarchy could be making a massive mistake in letting him go.
Some questionable decisions in the transfer market earlier this summer aside, the Spaniard has made his mark at the club and has been unlucky to miss out on the Scudetto due to the form of current champions Juventus, who celebrated a third consecutive league triumph back in May.
Massimiliano Allegri’s arrival was expected to hamper their chances of further glory on the domestic scene, but he has given the side a new attacking impetus and they now look more deadly than ever before.
Rudi Garcia’s Roma are also going from strength to strength, and trail the Old Lady by just a point in their hunt for a first league title since the days where Fabio Capello ruled the roost all the way back in 2001.
When Benitez was announced as the new Napoli manager only last summer, it prompted much intrigue amongst fans and pundits alike. How would a manager so loathed at Chelsea respond? How would he cope with life in Italy? How could a manager who failed to win the Premier League title possible succeed with life in Serie A?
Alas, he has for the most part silenced his critics. Life at the Stadio San Paolo was never going to be easy, but despite the departures of Lavezzi and Cavani he has still done enough to warrant the label of a success during his spell with the club.
In his maiden season at the club he guided them to third – securing a place in the Champions League as a result – and also won the Coppa Italia at the expense of Vincenzo Montella’s Fiorentina who were beaten 3-1 in the final in Rome.
This term they have overcome a sluggish start to the campaign to lie fourth in the table, just behind high-flying Lazio on goal difference, and also won the Italian Super Cup with victory over Juventus via a penalty shoot-out last month.
Benitez has largely been a success and deserves credit for his achievements. Only once he is gone may the club realise what an outstanding manager they had.