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Ding dong Rafa's gone! Birthday present Benitez off to Napoli

Aurelio De Laurentiis celebrated his birthday by signing up the Spaniard on a two-year deal.

No rest for the wicked: Rafa is off to Napoli.
No rest for the wicked: Rafa is off to Napoli.
Image: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire/

THE NAPOLI PRESIDENT Aurelio De Laurentiis may have spoiled his own birthday surprise by jumping the gun and announcing Rafa Benitez as his new manager.

Sky Sports and La Gazzetta dello Sport are among the many media outlets reporting that Napoli have offered the Spaniard, who just finished a Europa League-winning season with Chelsea, a two-year contract.

The president told Sky Sport Italia, “I’ve given myself a gift for my 64th birthday. Benitez will be the next Napoli coach.

“I’ll make it official in the next few days as Benitez needs to end things with Chelsea. He’ll have a two-year contract, no longer. We need to get to know each other first, then we’ll see.”

The 53-year-old won a Champions League trophy with Liverpool and took the Reds to another final two years later. He has also managed at Valencia and Inter Milan.

De Laurentiis, who turned 64 today, was reportedly unhappy that his comments were sent out on news wires far and wide across the globe. Napoli finished second in Serie A this season, nine points behind Juventus, and have automatically qualified for the Champions League group stages.

Earlier in the day, Napoli captain Paolo Cannavaro delivered a birthday greeting to the club president.

Cannavaro bleated, “Together we have spent another wonderful year, in which we played a leading role in the championship and, amazingly, managed to qualify for the next Champions League. This is another significant achievement of an exciting adventure and a winning project that, in just nine years, has turned Napoli into a sizeable force in Italian and world football.”

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Patrick McCarry

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