Napoli lining up Benitez successor: reports

Rafael Benitez has moved closer to quitting Napoli following their exit from the Italian Cup on Wednesday, with reports already proposing several candidates to replace the veteran Spaniard.

Napoli lining up Benitez successor: reports
Rafael Benitez's contract will expire at the end of this season. Rafael Benitez photo: Shutterstock

Benitez has remained coy on whether he will extend his stay at the San Paolo, where his contract will expire at the end of this season.

But Napoli's 1-0 defeat to Lazio (2-1 on aggregate) in the deciding second leg of the Cup semi-final on Wednesday appears to have hastened Benitez's eventual departure.

Sampdoria coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, who has steered the Genoese side to fifth place in Serie A and in contention for a Europa League place, has been linked to Benitez's post although there is also reported interest from AC Milan.

Luciano Spalletti, former coach of Roma who won four trophies including two Russian league titles in his last spell, with Zenit Saint Petersburg, is also in the frame according to reports.

Napoli had been pressing for a second place finish for most of this season but a six-game winless run in the league has seen Benitez's side drop to sixth place, a point behind Sampdoria and eight adrift of Lazio in the third and last Champions League place with nine games remaining.

Napoli remain in contention in the Europa League – they face Wolfsburg in the quarter-final on April 16th and 23rd – but their Cup elimination has merely added to their league woes.

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis made no mention of Benitez's fate but was furious following their Cup elimination.

"These players seem to be far too distracted. I've invested €386 million in the squad in recent years, I have a right to see some kind of return," De Laurentiis told Sportitalia.

"From now until the end of the season, if we don't change tack and the players are not capable of playing for the jersey, they are going into a training retreat.

"I hope this will prove a turning point and help us find some pride. Our performances of late have not been worthy of Napoli." Napoli host Fiorentina on Sunday.

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Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.