Rafael Benitez to leave Napoli at the end of the season to increase chances of replacing Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid

The former Liverpool manager is the favourite to become Real Madrid's next manager

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The Independent Online

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.


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."