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Rafa Benitez decision coming in "two to three months" - can Napoli afford to lose him?

Of course, two to three months is the end of the season, so that doesn't exactly bode well.

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Napoli have been enjoying a lot of success this past couple of months, but they've got one glaring problem: their manager's contract is up at the end of the season.

Rafa Benitez only signed a two-year contract when he joined Napoli 20 months ago, and the end of that deal is rapidly approaching. Thanks to Napoli's early-season struggles this year, negotiations for a new contract were frequently tabled or otherwise stalled, and there's been little indication over the last two months that any new talks have occurred.

Adding even more murk to the situation is that when members of Napoli's staff have been asked about Rafa's contract situation, they give very noncommittal answers like this one from Riccardo Bigon after the Inter match:

"We’ve gotten to know a wonderful person, and a great professional, both he and his staff.

"In two or three months we’ll have a clear picture of the future, but we must focus on the near future, the next five months which we’ll go into together with Benitez."

-Source: Football Italia

Of course "two to three months" brings us practically to the end of the season, which seems to be a harbinger of ill news for those who hope Rafa Benitez continues as Napoli's manager.

Of course, there are those that would welcome his departure. Rafa certainly hasn't been the most popular of managers this season, frequently making tactical and personnel decisions that, at best, leave fans scratching their heads in confusion and at worst leaves them angry. Sometimes those bizarre decisions work, but too often this season they can be pointed to as the source of losses and upset draws. Even still, his work as a manager has put Napoli in positions to win matches they would otherwise struggle in, and the club has enjoyed significant success last season.

The question, then, is if not Rafa, then who? For all his faults, Rafa is still a very good manager, and finding a better one who would come to Italy without an expansive transfer budget to lean on is, at best, unlikely. Unless Antonio Conte up and leaves the Italian national team, it's unlikely that Napoli can improve on Benitez easily.

Add that to the fact that Rafa is an excellent talent recruiter - none of Gonzalo Higuain, Jose Callejon, Raul Albiol, David Lopez, or Dries Mertens would be with Napoli without him - and the prospect of losing Benitez stands as an even less thrilling proposition. If he leaves, Napoli run a very serious risk of facing a talent exodus that would be hard to recover from quickly.

For all his faults, Rafa won points and goalscoring records for Napoli last season in addition to the Coppa Italia win, and is on pace for another strong campaign this season. He is a good manager, some bizarre decisions aside, and losing him would likely do much more harm than good. Hopefully not knowing the result of his contract negotiations until the end of the season doesn't mean what it appears to mean on the surface - that Rafa is leaving. If he does, Napoli will have a very, very difficult time adequately replacing him.