Rafa Benitez confirms Napoli exit, silent on Real Madrid link

Rafa Benitez has announced in a press conference that he is leaving Napoli, although he has refused to discuss an expected move to Real Madrid.

Benitez’s future has been the subject of sustained debate in recent days with Florentino Perez thought to be keen to anoint him successor to Carlo Ancelotti, who was sacked after failing to win a trophy this season. The former Liverpool and Inter coach – who won La Liga twice with Valencia, in 2002 and 2004 – was said to be “99%” sure to land the Madrid job by Ancelotti’s agent.

Initially, Napoli claimed Thursday’s press conference would not address Benitez’s future, but he has confirmed he is stepping down after two years in the job.

“I would like to thank the president, the club and all the fans because after two years I’m finishing my experience here with Napoli,” Benítez said.

“On Sunday we are facing a very important match and I want to conclude my two years here with a victory.

“It’s always sad to leave a job where the people have treated you well from the start and Napoli was like this to me. My family was key to me making this choice, Aurelio [De Laurentiis, president] and Napoli have made every effort and we were close to a renewal.”

Napoli finish their Serie A campaign on Sunday with a match against Lazio in a game which will decide the final Champions League berth. Lazio have a three-point lead and need a draw to claim third. Napoli would go above the capital club with a win thanks to their superior head-to-head record.

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