Yesterday it seemed that, after just six months in the job, Rafa Benitez was living on borrowed time at Inter Milan as a wave of conjecture began to emanate from Italy and ripple across the continent that the Spaniard had been delivered his backside on a plate by club owner Massimo Moratti.
An evening has now passed with no official word being released to the baying press, but the received wisdom is that Benitez has now been put out of his misery by Moratti and his high-raking associates – with the piffling issue of contractual compensation being the only obstacle left to clear before the Inter can formally announce the dismissal.
The Daily Mail have been prepared to put their head above the parapet and hazard a guess at the pay-off Benitez is likely to receive from Inter, with a total of €5 million being mooted which – when coupled with the £4 million that Liverpool apparently doled out to move him on over the summer – suddenly makes a career as a middling, ill-fated manager seem like a very tempting prospect.
The thoughts of the keen, collective media minds have naturally already turned to Benitez successor, with a variety of names being proffered forth by anyone and everyone – though two names seem to be cropping up more than most.
First up is that of Luciano Spalletti, though the general consensus is that the former Roma coach is to be denied the chance to talk to Inter by his current club, Russian giants Zenit St Petersburg.
Zenit are apparently insistent that Spaletti will remain at the Petrovsky Stadium for at least one more season with their financial overlords, energy conglomerate Gazprom, said to be willing to make ‘significant funds’ available to him in return for another year of his services.
Spaletti was rumoured to be Moratti’s first choice to step into the breach at Inter, but Gazprom‘s heavily-funded consolidation incentive coupled with a resultant £5 million compensation payment (should the Italian schemer have returned to the Serie A) seem to have combined to rule any such move ‘out of hand’.
The second recurring name on the list is that of former AC Milan coach Leonardo who, according to most sources, is now the favourite to take over as and when Benitez is forcibly removed from his post – which is all well and good, but their is a third option to my mind.
Mercifully for the Nerazzurri, the fates have aligned. Mere days before they chose to open up a vacancy at the helm of the first-team, Blackburn’s newly-ambitious owners finally kowtowed to fate’s whim and set Sam Allardyce free – free to fulfil the role that he has been destined for since he arrived on the planet.
“THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE!“