While one of the items on Aurelio De Laurentiis' to-do list after getting back from America was to re-start negotiations with Rafa Benitez about a potential contract extension, it's starting to sound like that might not be quite as easy a process as many believed. The issue, as always, comes down to money... but apparently it's not his own money that Rafa is worried about.
Various reports out of Italy this morning indicate that the negotiations are hung up on one major point: Rafa wants guarantees of future financial investments in the club, specifically in the form of improved transfer budgets. Napoli spent just €5 million net and €21 million overall this past summer, a far cry from the €28 million net and €101 million total from Rafa's first season in charge of Napoli. Apparently, Rafa feels that the limited budget meant that Napoli weren't able to strengthen properly this summer and is at least partly to blame for the slow start Napoli have gotten off to.
While there's a grain of truth in that, there's also some realities that have to be faced. Yes, Napoli were able to spend over €100 million in his first year in charge, but that's an amazingly huge exception to normal circumstances, not the rule. That spending spree was fueled by the club-record sale of Edinson Cavani, as well as several other more minor players. Italian clubs just don't have the income to support large transfer budgets every summer, not without selling significant assets at the same time. There's no €63 million a year TV deal for every club like there is in England, there's no €30 million a year shirt deals, no €1 billion sponsorship deals, not in Italy.
As long as Napoli can stay in the Champions League moving forward, it'll help bulk out the budget, but without that, you can't expect a ton more cash available to spend on players than what we saw last summer. Unless Napoli strike gold with sponsor or shirt deals soon, giving Rafa the kind of assurances he's seeking will be difficult at best. If that means Rafa leaves at the end of the season when his contract expires, it'll be unfortunate (even if you don't like him much, you can't accomplish what he has without being good at your job), but understandable.
Hopefully the two sides can figure something out, because there simply aren't much in the way of better options out there that would actually come to Italy to manage Napoli. While the financial realities of leading an Italian team are maybe not up to Rafa's ideals, Napoli are still a good club for him on a whole. While the idea of him taking over the Spanish national team being floated is an interesting one (his style and methods would likely work very well in the international game), hopefully he can manage a long run of success in Naples.