Napoli president claims Benitez to be new boss
Napoli have stepped up their efforts to lure Rafael Benitez by publicly claiming to have agreed a deal with the Spaniard.
Benitez's spell in temporary charge of Chelsea will end after the club's friendly against Manchester City in New York tonight.
Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis insisted yesterday that Benitez would now work at Napoli, but it is understood the coach has not yet committed to the move.
Benitez (pictured) is thought to want to assess other options, even holding out hope he might be a candidate to manage Paris St-Germain. But De Laurentiis claimed: "I've given myself a birthday gift, I've signed Benitez.
"I'll make it official in the next few days as Benitez needs to end things with Chelsea. He'll have a two-year contract. We need to get to know each other first, then we'll see."
Benitez looks certain to be replaced at Stamford Bridge by Jose Mourinho, to whom Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech paid glowing tribute yesterday.
"He (Mourinho) is a great manager and everybody remembers how successful we were with him as the manager," Cech said. "If he can reproduce that again, everything will be fantastic.
"He was the manager who won the first title for the club in 55 years and a new era began during his time, so this is why I think it (his return) is important.
"It will be great to see him back and hopefully he can reproduce the success we had between 2004 and 2006."
With Manchester United and Manchester City also experiencing managerial changes this summer, the top three from the past three seasons will all begin the new campaign at the dawn of a new era.
But Cech has warned that Alex Ferguson's departure from United will not damage the champions' hopes of retaining the title.
"United is a well-organised club and Alex left them in the best possible shape," Cech said. "But the new manager, David Moyes, has a big challenge ahead of him to fill Ferguson's boots. He has found a club that is perfectly organised, though, and everybody knows what to do, so it is only up to him.
"But I don't think it will change many things. It will still be Manchester United."
The David Moyes era at Old Trafford may not officially begin until July 1 but Ferguson's successor took his first major decision yesterday with the announcement that long-serving coaches Mike Phelan and Eric Steele are to leave their positions.
Outgoing chief executive David Gill also admitted he expects England striker Wayne Rooney to remain at the club next season.
Moyes is believed to be keen on appointing Jimmy Lumsden, his first-team coach at Goodison Park, and Steve Round, while Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt will also have roles within his set-up.
Elsewhere, Stoke City have made the first move in their search for a new manager after approaching Mark Hughes.
The former QPR boss has been contacted by Stoke chief executive Tony Scholes and being considerater as a successor to Tony Pulis. (© Daily Telegraph, London)