After months of assumptions and beliefs, reality is slowly starting to take shape. Despite some belief that a deal between Rafa Benitez and Napoli was close earlier this week, with Aurelio De Laurentiis supposedly offering him carte-blanche control of the squad and several contractual options, a new report indicates that Rafa has decided to leave at the end of the season.
It's perhaps not a surprising result -- the relationship between Benitez and De Laurentiis has seemed to be on a steady downhill slope of late, at least going by media reports -- and a new indication that a planned weekend meeting between the two is off would make the ESPN report seem awfully plausible.
If this is true, it at least gives Napoli time to sort out his replacement. Napoli are still believed to be close to having Sinisa Mihajlovic close to a contract, but they appear to have lost their potential grip on Luciano Spalletti, as the Italian manager is believed to be the first choice of Milan's soon-to-be new majority owners.
The other side of the "if this is true" coin is that, with a month left to go before the curtain falls on the season, there's plenty of time for things to get properly ugly. Rafa has never shown fear at speaking out against ownership in the past when he's been upset or felt slighted, and De Laurentiis has never really been familiar with the concept of a "filter."
Where Benitez goes next is very up in the air. Certain sects of Liverpool fans are trying to spread the idea that he's a lock to replace a soon-to-be fired Brendan Rodgers, but in reality it's far from guaranteed that Rodgers will be let go, much less that Benitez would be the man to replace him. There's still some links to Manchester City floating around, but those seem far from certain as well.