Benitez in at Napoli as Serie A's coaching carousel continues to spin

Walter Mazzarri left Napoli for the Inter hotseat and the Spaniard has taken his old role, but further movements are possible in the Italian market
By Kris Voakes

They call it the managerial merry-go-round, but lately it has taken on the look of waltzers. “The louder you scream, the faster we go,” shout the operators of the centuries-old fairground speed machines, and over the past few weeks the coaching waltzers have been going at break-neck pace.

The end-of-an-era change at Manchester United has been quickly followed by the reality that clubs elsewhere around Europe have neither the patience nor the inclination to allow their boss the hope of building a decades-old legacy.

Sir Alex Ferguson was put in charge at Old Trafford long before Massimo Moratti took the reins as president of Inter, and the Italian has become famed for the trigger finger that has accounted for nearly 20 coaches since 1995.

The past week has seen further frenzied movement in Italy. After Moratti dealt with Andrea Stramaccioni the only way he knows how and formally replaced him with ex-Napoli boss Walter Mazzarri, who has seen his old job quickly passed on to Rafa Benitez.


Stramaccioni's awful 2013 in charge of Inter saw the Nerazzurri slip down the table to ninth having been near Juventus at the top of Serie A towards the second half of 2012. Mazzarri has come over from Napoli to take the reins.

Despite guiding the Partenopei back to the Champions League, Mazzarri parted ways with the Stadio San Paolo side at the season's climax. On Monday, Aurelio De Laurentiis pounced to sign up Rafa Benitez as his replacement.

Allegri recovered from an awful start for the Rossoneri to clinch third in the league on the last day of the campaign. Despite this, he remains linked with a move to Roma and PSG as Silvio Berlusconi is reportedly considering a coaching shuffle.

Following Zeman's firing in February, temporary coach Andreazzoli has guided the capital club to the Coppa Italia final and a solid Serie A finish. However, Allegri is heavily rumoured to be in line to leave San Siro for the Olimpico.
The Spaniard, who was confirmed as the new incumbent at San Paolo on Monday, returns to work just days after leading Chelsea back into the Champions League as Europa League winners. And he can tell Mazzarri a thing or two about how tough living up to the expectations at Inter can be, having spent six months at Appiano Gentile in 2010. But whereas he came in straight off the back of the Mourinho-inspired treble triumph, Mazzarri at least has a long string of failures – Benitez included – to be measured against. Inter need to compete, but there is also a sense of perspective these days.

Benitez, meanwhile, comes into a club which Aurelio De Laurentiis has taken from the ashes and groomed into Scudetto challengers. After a second-placed finish - the Partenopei’s best return since their second Diego Maradona-inspired title in 1990 - there are high hopes for a Champions League campaign similar to the one in 2011-12 which saw them knock out Manchester City and Villarreal before coming closer than anyone else to sending eventual champions Chelsea packing.

The biggest question mark regarding Napoli’s summer, though, regards matters in the changing room rather than the coach’s office. The retention or otherwise of Edinson Cavani is understandably seen by Neapolitans as the key to the club’s hopes for a truly memorable 2013-14 campaign. Whereas over at Inter all eyes are on who may come in, the thought of the Uruguayan heading for the exit is what remains of gravest concern to Napoli supporters.

Whether Cavani stays or goes, Benitez should get more time at Napoli than he got at Inter. With Cavani in tow, they should get off to a reasonable start both at home and on the continent, while there will be enough sympathy towards the coach if the striker is sold that time will be allowed for the reconstruction of a side which has relied on the Uruguayan’s goals to reach the top over the last three years.

Mazzarri leaves Napoli in a good place, with a runners-up spot having been secured in Serie A this season. But now he becomes the sixth man charged with returning Inter to the heights they experienced under Jose Mourinho, yet with every new coach it is becoming an ever-more thankless task. An organisation which makes far too little in matchday and merchandising revenue has had to cut back massively on spending since the highs of Madrid 2010 were followed by the beginning of the Financial Fair Play era.

The former Sampdoria boss may well be able to lift the club back into Europa League contention, but right now the lights and glamour of the Champions League look very dim from where Inter are standing. Whereas Mourinho and Roberto Mancini, another man flung aside over the last fortnight as football’s latent short-termism has been played out at high velocity, had the boost of big money and little serious opposition, Italy’s top league can now boast a depth of competition which guarantees Moratti, Mazzarri and Inter nothing in the way of a head-start on provincial outfits.

Mazzarri’s achievements at Napoli over the last few years have left something of a legacy in Campania, on the one hand building him a reputation which has led to him being given a more prestigious and yet endlessly more thankless appointment, and on the other leaving his successor with a lot to live up to.

The appointments of Mazzarri and Benitez will, of course, be only the start of the fun in silly season. Massimiliano Allegri could well make way for Clarence Seedorf at AC Milan, Manuel Pellegrini is all set for Manchester City, Mourinho will inevitably be reintroduced to Chelsea fans before long and there are also the likes of Mancini and Carlo Ancelotti who could yet find themselves in new employment before August comes around.

The coaching waltzers have only just started to pick up speed.

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