Perhaps the worst-kept secret in football right now is that, by all appearances, Rafa Benitez will not be managing Napoli next season. The Spaniard's contract is up at the end of this season, and between recently rejecting a contract and yesterday's comments expressing interest in managing in France - where believed-to-want-Rafa club Paris Saint-Germain just happen to be - there's little reason to think at this point that Rafa has any real interest in staying with Napoli long-term any more.
So then the conversation turns to who replaced Benitez. It's hard to get a feel just yet for who will actually be available, and not all of the names are especially exciting. Laurent Blanc, who Rafa would replace at PSG, has had numerous dressing room issues and has never gotten PSG to play at the level they're capable, and there's no reason to think the Frenchman would manage in Italy anyways. Fiorentina boss Vincenzo Montella's contract is also up this summer, but it feels as though there's several other jobs in Italy he'd take ahead of Napoli, and there were recent rumors that he's been offered the AC Milan job for next season.
Other names have been floated and dismissed as unlikely - Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone - or too uninspiring - Sassuolo's Eusebio Di Francesco - but one name is just starting to float around who makes a lot of sense if he's interested. And thanks to his agent, we now know that he might just be.
That name is is Manuel Pellegrini, the Manchester City manager who seems fated to be fired at the end of this season despite winning the Premier League in his first season. City have had some frustrating results of late, but his only real sin this season is not being as dominant as Chelsea, but that's hardly his fault with the juggernaut that Jose Mourinho has created in London.
The Chilean tactician would surely be in high demand if he's let go, but according to his agent, Napoli might have a leg up. "Pellegrini has Italian roots," the agent told Radio CRC. "He's also been on holiday in Naples. He's a lover of language and culture, and he greatly appreciates Italy and Neapolitan culture."
As to Pellegrini's job status, his agent played a little coy, but subtly acknowledged that his client will likely be on the market. "Manuel has another year on his contract, and he intends to respect it. I don't know, however, what the leadership's intentions are. You never know in football.
"Could he replace Benitez? [...] We have to wait a few more months, then if De Laurentiis calls, we'll discuss it."
If Pellegrini is available in the summer and is truly interested, it would be damned hard to say no or be upset with such a hiring. He's an excellent manager with a very good track record, and there's little reason to think that he couldn't succeed with Napoli. He's also one of the few potentially-available managers who could probably come in and get key players that Rafa recruited like Gonzalo Higuain, Jose Callejon, and David Lopez to stay, which would be a huge mark in his favor.