It's looking more likely by the day that Napoli manager Rafa Benitez will soon be known as former Napoli manager Rafa Benitez. With the Spaniard's contract up at the end of the year and nothing but rumors about him leaving, speculation will quickly turn to who Napoli will try to replace him with.
When rumors were spinning earlier this season that Rafa might get fired in the midst of Napoli's terrible start to the season, the first name to replace him on many people's lips was Siniša Mihajlović, Sampdoria's Serbian manager who has done wonderful things with the club since taking over a little less than a year and a half ago. At the time, getting Mihajlović was a difficult prospect thanks to Sampdoria's successes in the league, but with his own contract up at the end of the year, Napoli might just be able to pull off the swoop.
Even Sampdoria's outspoken owner, Massimo Ferrero, seemed resigned to the idea. "The azzurro club really like him," Ferrero said in a recent radio interview when asked about the possibility of losing his manager, and said earlier this week that Mihajlović is free to leave this summer if that's what he wants.
"Mihajlović has [an offer] to stay for another year, and if he's happy to stay then I'll be happy," Ferrero mused. "If, however, he has the opportunity to [coach elsewhere], then I'll be happy too. If your wife tells you she loves someone else, what can you do? Hold on, or let her go? I'd let go."
While colorful in his phrasing, Ferrero definitely seems like he doesn't expect to see the sharp-dressed Serb on Sampdoria's touchline again. Enter Napoli.
The 46 year old knows Italian football well and has enjoyed a fair amount of success in Italy as both a player and a manager, though he hasn't won any trophies since deciding to wear a suit instead of boots and shin guards. His style and tactics would seem to suit Napoli's current squad well - though who knows how many players would leave if or when Rafa does - and his current run at Sampdoria is his most successful since he saved Catania from relegation in 2010.
While it may not be a sexy or splashy hire like some want, Napoli getting Mihajlović actually seems fairly realistic and also seems, at least on the surface, like a hire that can keep them at the competitive level they want in Italy. How he'd do in Europe would be a different matter - Mihajlović's record with a sub-par Serbia international squad wasn't inspiring, and he has no club experience on the continent as a manager, only as a player.
It'd be a somewhat risky hire considering the unknowns, but it seems like there's a lot more upside and logic to this hire than some others that have been mooted at times this season. It'd be hard to get too upset about it if Napoli did hire Mihajlović, and it would be easy to see such a move working out well for the club.