Rafa Benitez '99%' new Real Madrid coach, says agent of sacked Ancelotti
Rafa Benitez is already "99 percent" Real Madrid's new coach, according to the agent of departing Blancos boss Carlo Ancelotti.
Ancelotti was fired by Madrid president Florentino Perez on Monday evening, with the Italian having paid for a 2014-15 campaign which brought no major trophies despite winning the Champions League and Copa del Rey titles in his first season in charge the year before.
Current Napoli and former Valencia, Liverpool and Chelsea manager Benitez is widely seen as the frontrunner with his agent saying the Spaniard would be "delighted" to take the job, especially with Perez having intimated that he wanted a Spanish speaker in the role.
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Reporters have been told that no confirmation would be given until next week, perhaps because Benitez still has his final Serie A game as Napoli coach on Sunday evening.
This chain of events seems even more likely after Ancelotti's agent Ernesto Bronzetti told RAI that he had heard that Madrid-born Benitez a previous youth and assistant coach at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, was returning to the club as first team boss.
"Rafa Benitez is 99 percent Real Madrid coach," Bronzetti said.
Ancelotti had been linked with an immediate return to his former club Milan, although the 55-year-old said he will undergo a minor back operation and then take some time off -- a plan which his representative appeared to confirm.
"At the moment, Ancelotti wants to take a years' rest," Bronzetti said. "That is his intention."
Perez made his move despite Madrid players including Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcelo, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric having all voiced their hopes that Ancelotti would remain as their coach next year, and Bronzetti claimed some squad members had been in tears when the departure was confirmed.
"The team showed its concern on hearing the news," he said. "And some players cried when his departure was announced."
The affection of Madrid's players for the genial former Italy international was clear from their reactions on social media -- led by midfielder Toni Kroos.
¡Gracias Mister! It was a pleasure to work with you! I wish you all the best for the future. pic.twitter.com/62UnW4IYSR- Toni Kroos (@ToniKroos) May 25, 2015
Colombia international James Rodriguez gave a similar message: "Thanks for everything boss, in a short time I learned a lot from you."
Gracias por todo mister, en poco tiempo aprendí mucho de ti. pic.twitter.com/2zVvymqsLo- James Rodríguez (@jamesdrodriguez) May 25, 2015
Brazil left-back Marcelo also showed his gratitude, uploading a photo showing himself with Ancelotti and the departing coaching staff, including English assistant Paul Clement.
Ancelotti, who reports suggest plans to stay in Madrid and regularly attend games at the Bernabeu next season, also gave thanks to those who had supported him during his time in charge at the club.
I'd like to keep in mind this two fantastic years at Real Madrid. Thanks to the club, the supporters and my players. #HalaMadridYNadaMas- Carlo Ancelotti (@MrAncelotti) May 25, 2015
Real finished the season two points behind La Liga champions Barcelona, and ended up trophyless despite a 22-match winning streak earlier in the campaign.