Naples on Thursday afternoon at around 1 p.m. local time is going to be a very interesting place to be. That's when the club has scheduled a surprise press conference, with the only known details so far being that it will include two people: Aurelio De Laurentiis and Rafa Benitez.
The Napoli owner and his team's manager have not always gotten along, and recently it's seemed like their relationship has gone up in as much smoke as the squad's playing form. With Benitez largely expected to leave the club on Monday after the season officially ends and join Real Madrid, many are wondering just what the hell is going on and what this press conference is for.
There's a handful of theories floating around, so we've gathered them here in one easy-to-read place.
They're officially announcing Rafa's departure
The dream scenario for some, the nightmare for others. This one makes the most sense based on what we do know about the current situation -- or at least what we think we know based on available reports and information -- but the timing is all kinds of strange.
Why do this three days before a huge match that decides whether or not Napoli have a shot at the Champions League? It's not even that the players would be distracted by it, lord knows there's enough talk about it to take care of that already, it's just ... strange.
The only way this fits is if Rafa is headed straight to the airport after the match to match a flight to Madrid, which would fit with the expected timeline of him finalizing his Real Madrid contract on Monday. That would leave no time to do a farewell press conference after the final match, so if De Laurentiis wants to give him a proper, respectful sendoff, then this makes a kind of sense.
They're announcing that Rafa is staying
The dream scenario for some, the nightmare for others. This would be a complete shock and a 180 degree turn from everything being talked about for a good long while now. Heck, on Sunday there were headlines about De Laurentiis being so livid he was ready to fire Benitez out of spite. To go from that to signing a new contract in a few days would be flabbergasting.
And yet, you can't totally discount the chance that such a thing could be happening. De Laurentiis is a very changeable man and sometimes goes a little off the rails -- this site has a section titled "ADL is CRAZY" after all -- so it's not at all out of the realm of possibility that hammering out an extension with Benitez at the last minute might have happened. It seems wildly unlikely, especially with all accounts having Rafa's agent in Madrid right now, but it's possible.
The more interesting thing is what such a move implies. What happens this summer? Who stays, who goes? With Riccardo Bigon 99% out the door himself, does he turn around and stay, or does ADL give Rafa the sporting director's powers, which he apparently has sought? Only one thing's for sure: a lot of people would be stunned, and the repercussions would be interesting to watch unfold, including seeing what happens in Madrid.
They're announcing stadium plans
This is one that's gained some traction, but it's really hard to see why. The timing would be awful, a clear attempt to distract fans from the turmoil in the squad on the field, and the backlash from fans who aren't fooled at all would be horrible. Plus, why have Rafa there for that? Even if he's staying, it makes no sense to have him at a stadium announcement press conference.
A stadium announcement is coming. There's plans being made, financing being set up, deals being negotiated, blah blah blah. But it's almost certainly not going to be the topic of this press conference, more likely coming in a month or so once the dust of the end of the season and whatever happens at the manager's post has a chance to settle.
They're announcing a big summer friendly and/or summer tour
This is being floated as well, and I don't buy this one either. Doesn't make a ton of sense to have Rafa at such a press conference unless he's staying, and this suffers from the same timing crisis as making a stadium announcement would. This would be more something for, say, a week from Thursday, once we know who the manager will be -- though, really, if Napoli are going on a big tour, they really should have announced it like two months ago.
They're announcing the purchase of Alessio Cerci
What? No. God. Why would you do that to us. Please god no.
Something completely different than anything anyone has come up with
Let's face it, this is the most likely scenario. This is Aurelio De Laurentiis we're talking about, after all. He's the king of surprising everyone, and if anyone has something exciting and unexpected up his sleeve, it's him. The wild card, though, is Rafa's involvement. With him almost certainly leaving the club, seeing how he's involved in something not including his contractual status will be interesting to see play out.
What do you think is going to happen on Thursday? Talk it out in the comments!