We've been assuming for weeks -- months really -- that Napoli will have a new manager next season. Current boss Rafa Benitez has rejected contract offers, there's been talk of unrest between Rafa and the rest of the club leadership, he's verging on exiling his captain, and even at times openly talking about other places he could manage instead of for Napoli.
Now, with all of that piled on top of Napoli's poor form, Aurelio De Laurentiis has had enough.
Napoli's owner has reportedly decided that he will not offer Rafa Benitez a new contract to stay with the club, and has begun actively looking for a new manager. De Laurentiis has apparently long found certain aspects of Rafa's managerial style irritating, especially his over-forced rotation policies, but put up with it for the mostly positive results. Now that those are gone and Napoli are almost hopelessly adrift of the Champions League places in Serie A, enough is enough.
Assuming the report is accurate, it makes sense to just let Rafa see out the string at this point rather than fire him. Firing a manager at this stage of the season with so much on the line is the equivalent of waiving the white flag, and would do much more harm than good. Better to see things out as they are and move on quickly after the final whistle of the season.
Apparently such news doesn't phase Benitez in the slightest, who apparently has told his squad that he will not be coming back next season. With the relationship between him and De Laurentiis having seemed to completely break down, this kind of breakup isn't all the surprising. It is, perhaps, disappointing, given the promise of the first season Rafa had with the club. The "sophomore slump" hit in a bad way, though, and frankly we've been headed towards a story like this from the moment Napoli crashed out of the Champions League qualifiers way back in August.
It's a sad end, but hopefully the future will be brighter.