Currently storming Italy's Serie A with Napoli, Rafael Benitez is quickly transitioning from Chelsea outcast to Azzurri wizard as the Naples side share the top spot in the division along with Roma. Undefeated in four domestic matches, Napoli have won all of their games in the league to date, have returned a mighty 11 goals whilst conceding just thrice.
While Benitez's win record at Chelsea (58%) rivaled Carlo Ancelotti's (61%) and his percentage at Liverpool (56) was bettered only by two men in the modern era: Kenny Dalglish and Bob Paisley, his legacy has largely been negative.
At Napoli, again, his on-paper statistics are proving strong and are aided by the shrewd summer acquisition Gonzalo Higuain, who has already struck four times and assisted once in five appearances in all competitions.
Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis is hopeful this trend continues. The film producer, who began his tenure with the club in 2004, is eager to see their successes in Italy transcend the Serie A into Europe, but admits football was never something he was occupied with in years past.
'I bought this club when coming back on a flight from Los Angeles where I spoke to Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, so football was not on my mind,' de Laurentiis is quoted to have said by Football Italia.
'As a kid... I didn’t know anything about football,' he stated, before adding that balancing competitions is crucial for Napoli's priorities this season. With their current form, renowned boss and a roster that contains names such as Higuain, Marek Hamsik, Goran Pandev, Gokhan Inler, Paolo Cannavaro and Pepe Reina, the Campania outfit have already established a continental reputation, however, de Laurentiis wants more.
'I hope we can balance Serie A and the Champions League. For years I was trying to make Napoli international. I thought Benitez was the right man for the job. With his pedigree he couldn’t be wrong. He has done well by holding on to the good work we’ve done in the past while at the same time revolutionising the style of play and bringing in new quality faces.
'My next step will be to import Italian football into America.'
While appointing Benitez has come from a man who knew no football as a boy, with every winning game that passes, it appears to become that much wiser.
image: © etyek