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The future of Rafa Benitez is still up in the air, could Vicenzo Montella replace him?

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As the end of the contract tying Rafa Benitez to Napoli comes closer, negotiations still seem to be on hold.

Look in to my eyes my eyes look only in my eyes...
Look in to my eyes my eyes look only in my eyes...
Warren Little/Getty Images

Perhaps one of the most important storylines for Napoli's future of late has been the contract status of the club's manager, Rafa Benitez. The Spaniard's contract expires at the end of the year, and it seems like every time contract negotiations start, a run of poor form crops up and they get tabled again.

There have been rumors of offers from other clubs, of Rafa not being interested in coming back, of Aurelio De Laurentiis not wanting him back, and seemingly everything else in between. For now at least, Rafa is still around, and getting questions asked about what the future has in store.

"The President [Aurelio De Laurentiis] has said we’ll talk later, and I say the same.

"We’re professionals. [...] I can say that to date there have been offers [from other clubs], but nothing has come of them because I’m busy here, and I want to win even more.

"We’ll evaluate things in a couple of months. [...] In a few months we’ll see where we are in the standings, but also in all other respects.

"My message is clear - if we’re all together it makes it easier to win. I believe that if we all work together it makes it easier."

Source: Football Italia

That doesn't sound super-committed to the cause, perhaps, but at least it sounds like he's focused while he's here. Rafa's spoken at length in the past about ten-year plans and long-term visions, but that's a message that's been lacking in more recent months. That's most likely because there is no long-term commitment yet in Naples, but many are taking it as a sign of disinterest from the Spaniard.

That's leading to speculation not only of where he could go in the future (with an almost universal declaration that he'll return to Liverpool), but who would replace Rafa in Naples. The hot name right now is Vicenzo Montella, the currently embattled manager at Fiorentina. The well-dressed Italian is under fire in Florence because of a string of disappointing results, but those results have as much to do with yet another crippling run of injuries than anything he's doing right or wrong.

Montella is a younger manager at 40 years old, but has a lot of promise if he has the right kind of backing behind him. His tactical beliefs seem roughly in line with those of Benitez - though he typically employs formations other than Rafa's dogmatic usage of the 4-2-3-1 - and would seem to be a fairly decent fit for Napoli should it come to that. There's the question of availability, but that doesn't seem to be too large a problem as it looks more and more like Montella may not even survive to the end of the season as Fiorentina's manager.

Sampdoria boss Sinisia Mihajlovic has also been a popular name connected to Napoli in the past, but given his successes this season, he might be harder for Napoli to get. No matter what, though, Napoli would need to get as good and forward-thinking of a manager as they possibly can, or they risk wasting the progress they've made over the last several years. Make the wrong choice, and the club could be mired in mediocrity for the next decade.