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May 27, 2013

Napoli names Rafa Benitez coach

NAPLES, Italy -- Rafael Benitez was announced as Napoli's new coach Monday after concluding his interim spell at Chelsea.

Napoli president and film producer Aurelio De Laurentiis made the announcement as promised on his personal Twitter account, calling Benitez "a man of great international experience. A leader."

Benitez reportedly signed a two-year deal worth 3.5 million euros ($4.5 million) per season.

Benitez said in a statement on his website that he was "very happy and very satisfied" to join Napoli.

"I must confess that I am extremely excited because I can share my passion for football with the fans of Napoli; it is proven that they are very, very special," he said.

Benitez led Chelsea to the Europa League title earlier this month and formerly coached Inter Milan in Serie A for the first half of 2010-11. The Spaniard has also managed Valencia and Liverpool.

Walter Mazzarri resigned as Napoli coach eight days ago and signed with Inter.

Napoli finished second in Serie A to qualify for next season's Champions League group phase.

Benitez's first order of business with Napoli will be to convince star forward Edinson Cavani to stay. The Uruguay forward led Serie A with 29 goals this season but appears interested in a transfer.

Distrusted by Chelsea fans following his tenure at Liverpool, Benitez never settled in after he was hired on a seven-month contract in November to replace Roberto Di Matteo, who was fired six months after leading the London club to its first Champions League title.

Outgoing Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho is expected to return to Chelsea for a second stint to coach the team.

Besides the Europa League title, Benitez guided the Blues to the semifinals of the FA Cup and League Cup and a third-place finish in the Premier League, ensuring the club's 11th straight Champions League appearance.

Napoli will be playing in the Champions League for the second time in three seasons, and De Laurentiis will want to see improvement following the southern club's impressive return to the elite competition in 2011-12 in which it reached the second round before being eliminated by Chelsea.

Napoli is also aiming to win Serie A for the first time since Diego Maradona led the team to its only Italian league titles in 1987 and 1990.

Information from The Associated Press and Press Association was used in this report.

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