The managerial post at Napoli is all but officially open. It was announced Thursday that Rafa Benitez will be leaving the club after Sunday's match against Lazio, so it's time for Napoli to figure out who the next man to carry the torch for the club will be.
The runaway favorite through most of the process has been Sinisa Mihajlovic, who is currently in charge of Sampdoria, but like Benitez is nearly out of contract. It's easy to see why Mihajlovic would be a favorite, with his strong force of personality, snappy attire, and oh yes a very impressive run with Sampdoria this season, taking a team that many people wrote off as destined for the bottom half of the table and spending most of the year punching with the big boys.
Of course, many Napoli fans are concerned about the appointment, and rightly so. Mihajlovic is well-regarded, but his history prior to this year is ... mixed, at best. The 46 year old Serbian was a star as a player, but as a manager he's had a much more mixed record, including mediocre spells at Bologna, Catania, and Fiorentina, before a very disappointing time as the head of the Serbian national team -- which admittedly was already pretty dysfunctional before he took over.
While this season with Sampdoria has certainly been encouraging and hopeful for Mihajlovic's future, there's far from any kind of guarantee of what kind of success he would have with Napoli, especially if Napoli find themselves in the Champions League playoff round, since Sinisa has no European experience as a manager
So while Napoli fans wring their hands with worry, in comes a breath of fresh air: if Napoli beat Lazio on Sunday, the next man in charge might not be Mihajlovic.
Sky Italia reported earlier that, should Napoli find themselves in that playoff round with a Champions League group stage spot at stake, Aurelio De Laurentiis would prefer a more experienced coach be in charge in order to give his team as good a chance as possible of winning that playoff and actually competing in the Champions League proper. That would mean turning to such available names as former Roma and Zenit boss Luciano Spalletti, Sevilla manager Unai Emery, or ex Dortmund mastermind Jurgen Klopp.
Klopp would be the dream candidate, but it seems like a longshot at the absolute best for Napoli to get him. Spalletti or Emery would be more realistic targets, with Spalletti wanting to come home to Italy and Emery apparently wanting a new challenge, even though he now has a chance to guide Sevilla through their own Champions League journey. Any of the three would bring more confidence and surety to the manager's role, though, and fans would feel much more comfortable competing on that level with them rather than Mihajlovic.
So while Mihajlovic is still the favorite to take over, it is far from a lock just yet. While a Sky Italia report on something like this on it's own would normally be worth scoffing at, this report actually seems to be building on previous reports from smaller outlets that have been drifting in and out for the last couple of weeks. It's not entirely without foundation, and frankly, it really does sound like something De Laurentiis would have up his sleeve. If this pans out as reality, next year could be pretty fun in Naples.