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Reading between the lines: Rafa Benitez is leaving Napoli

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No one's actually said one way or the other yet, but it sure looks like Napoli's manager is leaving when his contract is up at the end of this season.

Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

It's long been a question, but now it's starting to feel more and more like a foregone conclusion. The longer we go without Rafa Benitez signing a new contract or us hearing anything meaningful about intent to sign or active negotiations, the more likely it is that the Spanish manager leaves come the end of the season.

Now with French giants Paris Saint-Germain seeming to be interested in bringing in Benitez to head up their petrobucks project and still no one giving straight answers, that assumption is feeling more and more like an impending reality.

Even when asked about PSG's interest by French station Canal+ recently, Benitez stuck to the same line he and Riccardo Bigon have been trotting out for weeks: "I will talk about my future in two or three months," this time adding that "we must do everything to ensure that the squad is not distracted."

That second line is ominous in context, considering that generally the best way to make sure that a manager's contract situation doesn't distract the squad is to make sure his contract isn't running down. Instead, rumors of Rafa leaving the club and no one giving straight answers anywhere seems like a pretty dang good recipe for distracting the club at a crucial time. Indeed, saying that you don't want the players distracted my the manager's contract when there's no extension in place sounds an awful lot like an evasive way of saying "yeah, he's leaving, we just don't want to tell anyone yet."

At this point, after months of inactivity on the contract negotiation front and too many questions dodged, it seems inevitable and inescapable that Rafa is a man on his way out. All Napoli fans can do now is hope for the best, and pray that either somehow he stays -- because Rafa is a very good manager, despite his faults and critics -- or that Napoli don't take a giant step backwards with his replacement.