Rafael Benitez has confirmed that he will leave Italian side Napoli at the end of the season, with the former Liverpool manager the current bookmakers’ favourite to replace Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid.
Ancelotti was sacked by Real president Florentino Perez on Monday evening having failed to make an impact in the club’s quest to win back the La Liga title, although his dismissal came less than a year after winning the Champions League and the famous La Decima for the Spanish club.
Benitez has spent two seasons with Napoli having joined the club after his interim spell with Chelsea that produced the Europa League success, and the Spaniard had also been linked with a possible return to Anfield to replace Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool should the club’s owners choose to sack him after this season’s difficulties.
Real Madrid 1 Juventus 1 player ratings
Real Madrid 1 Juventus 1 player ratings
1/22 REAL MADRID: Casillas 7
The Spaniard was excellent when called upon tonight and showed his experience to keep the back four composed as Juventus pressed for an away goal. Couldn’t do anything about the goal.
2/22 Carvajal 7
Carvajal was steady tonight and looked to get forward whenever he could to help the attacking cause. Provided great deliveries from wide positions.
3/22 Varane 7
The young centre back improved hugely from his dismal display in the first leg. He didn’t give Morata a moment’s peace and showed his potential on the big stage.
4/22 Ramos 7
Looked more comfortable in his familiar centre back position and held his own well against the in-form Tevez. Showed his importance at the heart of Madrid’s defence.
5/22 Marcelo 7
After a night to forget in Turin, Marcel was back to his best at the Bernebeu. Defensively sound but gave great support to Ronaldo on the left flank.
6/22 Isco 7
The young Spaniard showed his class tonight, pressing high on the Juventus midfield and finding space in front of the back four on a regular basis.
7/22 Kroos 7
As always, Kroos was assured on the ball and looked to get things going from deep. Finally filled the void left by Luka Modric in the midfield.
8/22 James 7
He may have gone down easily for the penalty but the Colombian was a nuisance in his favoured central midfield role. Found the gaps constantly.
9/22 Bale 6
Although he wasn’t at his majestic best, Bale showed some improvement on his first leg performance. Still seemed quiet and low on confidence though.
10/22 Benzema 7
Benzema showed Madrid what they were missing in the first leg; a focal point. Stretched the Juventus back four and linked up well with the midfield.
11/22 Ronaldo 7
Constantly tried to get Madrid going even if it didn’t come to fruition. Scored the first goal and but cut an incredibly frustrated figure in the second half.
12/22 JUVENTUS: Buffon 7
The Italian veteran had another vintage display tonight. Pulled off countless world class saves to keep Juventus in the tie.
13/22 Lichsteiner 7
The full back struggled to deal with Ronaldo defensively but showed his attacking prowess with some mazy runs down the flank.
14/22 Bonucci 6
Didn’t make a single tackle in the first half and it showed. The experienced defender was overrun in the second leg and should’ve been punished more often.
15/22 Chiellini 6
Ridiculous challenge on Rodriguez for the penalty but recovered well in the second half to give his side some sort of control.
16/22 Evra 6
Showed that he can still play at this level marking Bale out of the game for much of the second leg. Looks to be a key figure in the Juventus squad.
17/22 Marchisio 7
His industrious work ethic and perfectly timed runs from midfield made him a nuisance for the Madrid defence. Should’ve had a brace to himself.
18/22 Pirlo 6
Wasn’t at his best tonight but gave Juventus what they needed when holding onto their lead; composure in possession. Made up for his lack of legs with his positional intelligence.
19/22 Pogba 7
The Frenchman held his own at the Bernebeu and showed the world what he’s all about. Did his bit for his team’s defensive effort but didn’t show as much creative prowess as we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from him.
20/22 Vidal 7
Worked tirelessly in a trademark performance for the Chilean. Kept the ball well when others around him were feeling the pressure.
21/22 Tevez 8
The diminutive forward continues to take his game to another level. Led most of Juventus’s counter attacks even if he was more of a provider than a direct goal threat.
22/22 Morata 8
The ex-Madrid man played his part in both legs and tonight put the final nail in the holder’s coffin. Great finish under pressure.
But it soon emerged that Real were seeking a Spanish-speaking manager to replace Ancelotti and that Benitez was the front-runner to fill the position, and his announcement that he will leave Napoli following this weekend’s final round of Serie A fixtures sees him take a step closer to taking up the vacancy at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Speaking at a press conference alongside Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis, Benitez refused to answer questions regarding his future and a possible role with Real, but he did confirm that he is leaving Napoli because of "family reasons" having been away from wife Maria and his two daughters during his time in Italy.
"My contract with Napoli was a two-year deal. A contract that will end on Sunday after the game against Lazio," said Benitez.
"I want to thank the club, its president and the fans for what you have done for me.
"I want to say goodbye to this club and I want to end my cycle here with a victory and a place in the qualifying round of the Champions League."
He added the reasons behind his departure: "The first thing is the distance from my family.
"A few weeks ago I spoke to my wife to try to convince her, but then I told (Napoli president) Aurelio (De Laurentiis) that it would not have been an easy task.
"He had to look ahead and so did I, we will try to win until the end."
The Independent’s contributor Nicholas Rigg added that he expects an announcement of Benitez’s appointment to come as early as Wednesday.
Addressing Benitez's exit, De Laurentiis admitted that he is not surprised by the 55-year-old's decision and thanked him for his time at Napli, which produced the Coppa Italia success last season and possible Champions League qualification this season should they beat Lazio on Sunday and finish third in Serie A.
"Rafa told me immediately after he agreed to stay on last summer that this would be his last campaign because his family wanted him nearby," he said. "I want to thank Rafa, a coach that I really wanted two years ago."Reuse content