From a vote of confidence to a thrown gauntlet in just 24 hours. That's impressive.
According to reports from Italy, Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has given Rafa Benitez an ultimatum: win the next three matches or find a new job. There was "pressure" to win the Sassuolo and Torino matches a few weeks ago, but the tone of this sounds much more firm, where anything less than nine points will see Rafa out the door no matter what else happens.
Given the matches on tap, Rafa might want to start sorting out his CV. Napoli should beat Hellas Verona tomorrow, but then they should have won half a dozen matches that they haven't this season. Then comes the midweek trip to Atalanta, an away fixture that's given Napoli fits in recent years. Then next weekend they host Roma, and Roma have been very, very good against teams that aren't Juventus and Bayern Munich this season. Given that Napoli will probably do pretty OK to get four points out of these matches, asking them to win all three is an extremely tall order.
For his part, Rafa seems to be taking this well in stride. "It is exaggerated to say we are not on the right track," he said in his pre-match press conference, responding to recent media criticism. "I am here to create something different. I want to win games and create a winning mentality and structure that can last, not just once every 25 years.
"I have confidence that this team has a lot of quality and will soon return to winning ways, controlling the game the way they always have done. [...] The infrastructure must be improved not for me, but for Napoli. Everything I do will remain here for any other Coach. The growth of the club can therefore occur with or without me."
The infrastructure comments hearken back to Rafa's talk of a ten year plan and building for the long term future of the club, something he always tries to put in place and improve wherever he's at. But right now, in the current situation he's found himself in, Rafa shouldn't be looking at the next ten years. He shouldn't even be looking at the next ten days.
Rafa needs to look at the here and now, at how best to start winning matches for Napoli right now, because not only is the season spiraling away from them, his head is firmly on the chopping block. If he wants to lead this club to glory as badly as he claims, he needs to find a way to fix the squad's current problems that are costing them matches this season rather than keep trying to prevent issues in next season and beyond. Once things are stabilized and the team is back on the right track, he can look at the big picture again. For now, though, his vision needs to be tightened up before he's out of work.