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Napoli close in on former Empoli manager Maurizio Sarri

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The former Empoli boss has been seen in his hometown of Naples getting wined and dined with Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis.

Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

The coaching search for Napoli hasn't exactly gone well in the wake of the departure of Rafa Benitez. Of the club's top three options, one went on sabbatical, one used his Napoli negotiations as leverage to get a better contract where he was, and the third is about to get hired at Milan. The club has had to take a step back and re-asses its options, which may have lead them to zero in on someone not previously considered: Maurizio Sarri.

Sarri most recently managed Empoli, where he guided the Tuscan side to promotion a year ago and to a comfortable 15th place in his first Serie A campaign. He resigned his post after the season, and has been linked to several different openings around the league. Interestingly, he's now being linked to Napoli, partly out of his connection to Naples, being a native son of the city, but on Friday he was seen out on the town having dinner with Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis, a certain sign that the club's interest is real.

The 56 year old manager has a long and mostly successful history as a coach, but until this year, all of his experience was at Serie B or below. That's not to say that Sarri didn't do well with Empoli despite his relative lack of experience; to the contrary, Sarri took a team full of players who were young or inexperienced at the highest level or both, and turned them in to a focused team that was hard to beat and was always in matches. There's a fair amount of thought that, if given a team with a higher level of talent, Sarri could prove to be quite a formidable manager. If that proves true, managing in his home town could be exactly the ticket.

Of course, there's always the risk that Sarri is a Serie B manager who simply punched above his weight last season. In fact, that would be rather large risk under the circumstances. Napoli need to take a step forward in their development as a club, and if things go wrong with Sarri, they could take a step back instead. They'd be walking a fine line if they go in this direction -- let's hope things fall in the right direction if Sarri is the next man in charge at the San Paolo.