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Benitez set for tilt at Champions League with Napoli

Rafael Benitez insists he will manage in the Champions League next season following the end of his spell as interim manager at Chelsea during the club's post-season trip to the United States.

Despite intense opposition from supporters following his appointment in the wake of Roberto di Matteo's dismissal last November, Benitez has delivered the Europa League trophy to Stamford Bridge and also guided the team to automatic qualification for next season's Champions League.

Napoli, who will play in the Champions League next season, are understood to be close to agreeing a deal for Benitez to take charge at the Serie A club.

And Benitez claims that his record at Chelsea has earned him the right to have another shot at the Champions League, having won the competition with Liverpool in 2005.

"I will go with a team in the Champions League," Benitez said. "I want to be back in work quickly, but first I will go back to London and be with my family for a while.

"With Chelsea, I was just thinking about doing well in my own job and that's all. You can analyse better than me but two semi-finals, a trophy and top three – everybody was saying 'you have to do this or that'... we did it.

"I have enjoyed it, especially when we were winning. But to see the players improving, the commitment during the whole season. I was really pleased. All I wanted to do was to do my job with a top side and to show people that we can still do well.

"The circumstances were special but still we did our job as best as possible so I'm really pleased for everyone involved. My staff, players... everyone was pushing for us to do well.

"The players have grown and they will be much better next year. They have more experience and you can see the team was improving."

With Chelsea winning the Europa League, Benitez appeared to win over a section of the club's supporters during the final days of his reign. And he admits to being hopeful of a positive reception at Stamford Bridge if he returns with his new club in the Champions League next season.

"You never know what reception you'll get, but at least I can say I did my job," Benitez said. "I've said before a lot of fans supported in the end.

"Some of them couldn't change their minds, but we did our job and I hope everyone could enjoy it. We did what we had to do – that's the main thing."

"Always in football you win trophies at the end of the season. You cannot win them in the first month with a new team. You have to be patient but in football that's more difficult." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent