It's no secret that the managerial job landscape in Italy has become quite tumultuous in recent years. Several clubs have become renowned for flipping managers several times a season, which has made the idea of long-term planning as the manager of an Italian club a difficult proposition at best.
Enter Rafa Benitez. Napoli's first-year manager has something of a reputation of looking at the future just as much as he looks at the here and now. While he never had much of a chance to put his stamp on things at Inter Milan or Chelsea, it's hard to deny that while at Valencia and Liverpool he put a lot of work in to leaving those clubs in a better position than when he got there. By the sound of things, he's planning on doing the same thing for Napoli:
"I want to create an infrastructure that lasts in the club and in the city. When I work for a club I think about being there for 10 years, because it’s a project. I’m not a Coach who goes to a club, wins something and then leaves.
"Napoli are not a team who should win something every 25 years, if next year we are in the same situation then we should be concerned."
-Souce: Football Italia
Benitez is a coach that likes stability, that likes to create a model of consistency and success. He doesn't just want to win this year, he wants to win next year and the year after that and the year after that as well. He wants to create sustainability at the club he's in charge of, which is a smart approach in general, but especially so in a time when Financial Fair Play is hanging over everyone's heads while we figure out if UEFA is going to make sure it has teeth or not.
Not only does the idea of sustainability that Benitez generally put in to place at his clubs include smart purchases of younger, talented players as we've seen so far, the Spaniard's ideal includes building a strong, capable academy system to feed his first squad with talent without having to spend big on the transfer market. We saw him enhance Valencia's already-strong academy during his time there, and until recently it did the Spanish side a lot of good in La Liga. While it was at times a contentious topic during his time at Liverpool, in the last couple of years his efforts have borne a lot of fruit, and the club's new owners have been building on his efforts to much acclaim from the fanbase.
It's no secret that Napoli's academy isn't any great shakes right now. There's a handful of good talents such as Gennaro Tutino and Vincenzo Guardiglio, but for the most part there's not much to get excited about down there right now. If Aurelio De Laurentiis allows him to do things the way he wants, he'll start having the club's scouts find premium talents in other academies who are surplus there but will go to the top of the food chain in Naples. He'll start putting in the best coaching staff he can put together to train these kids, and hopefully within a few years Napoli will be reaping the benefits of this system.
It's something Italy as a whole should look at doing. Academy development across the country has suffered in recent seasons, and Italian clubs developing quality players has become the exception rather than the rule. For the long term health of not only the national team, but the league's ability to compete on European fronts, improving the quality of youth academies across Italy needs to be of paramount importance.
Hopefully, Rafa Benitez getting to enact his plan and methods on Napoli can achieve positive results and spark a revolution of sorts across the country. If Benitez and his method of looking down the long road bring success to the club, and other Italian clubs follow suit, in can only be a benefit for the long term outlook of Italian clubs and the Italian national team in broader competitions.