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Two clear early favorites emerge to replace Rafa Benitez

With Napoli now fully in manager-seeking mode, two candidates have emerged as the hunt for the replacement for Rafa Benitez begins.

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Despite a half-hearted denial from Rafa Benitez that he's set to leave, the way the rumor mill is spinning right now makes it look as though Napoli have kicked their search for his replacement in the manager's chair in to full gear. Numerous managers have been linked to the job over the last few months, but two have emerged as clear favorites early in the process.

The first is Luciano Spaletti, the former Roma boss and most recently in charge of Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia, though he was fired from that post a year ago after failing to dominate that league as he had the two years previous and struggling in European competition. He lead Roma to one of their better spells of play before their previous ownership situation started to break down, though, and for those Napoli fans clamoring for the side to be more Italian, there's not many managers from the country better than Spaletti, and he's also the only one on that level guaranteed to be available.

The other candidate is neither Italian nor unemployed, but he's spent most of his career in Italy and his contract is up at the end of this season. Sinisa Mihajlovic has reportedly expressed an intent to move on this summer to find a new challenge, and the Serbian manager is certainly intriguing given what he's accomplished with limited resources at Sampdoria.

Some reports are indicating that Mihajlovic is Napoli's first choice, but apparently Sampdoria's owner won't let his treasured prize go without a fight. Should he win that battle, Napoli are prepared to go with Spaletti, whose long-time assistant recently told the press that the Italian would be eager to coach in Naples if he's given the chance.

Either manager would be a good option for Napoli, as both have success in their pasts and tactics that would play well with the current players in the squad. Of course, it could easily be that neither are in charge of the vesuviani come next season, and it's very likely we'll hear of other "favorites" in the meantime. For a start, though, this isn't bad, and gives promise to the club's future in an uncertain time.