Football: Napoli chief denies announcing Benitez capture

ROME (REUTERS) - Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has denied media reports earlier on Friday that he had named former Chelsea and Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez as the new Napoli manager.

"I've closed the deal for a new manager but I can't officially announce it until I receive the go-ahead from the other club with which he is under contract until June 30," he was quoted as saying by Sky Italia.

"I saw a group of people that I've known for years in the hall of the hotel and I said to them: 'I've got myself a present'", added the film mogul, who was celebrating his 64th birthday on Friday.

"But I didn't give a name, I could have been talking about (Manuel) Pellegrini, Benitez, (Laurent) Blanc, (Jupp) Heynckes or anyone else. Unfortunately I can't tell you who it is as there are Uefa regulations."

Italian media reported that Di Laurentiis had named Benitez as the new Napoli manager, with Mediaset reporting him as saying "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, no longer. We need to get to know each other first, then we'll see."

The new manager will replace Walter Mazzari, who left the club after their 2-1 loss at AS Roma in their last game of the season on Sunday and was on Friday appointed Inter Milan coach to replace the sacked Andrea Stramaccioni.

Mazzari took Napoli to second place in Serie A and re-established them as a force in Italian football. They also won the Italian Cup last season.

Local media reports said there was a meeting in Rome on Thursday between representatives of Napoli and Benitez during which an agreement was reached on a two-year contract worth 3.5 million euros (S$5.71 million) per season.

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