English Championship

Zola: Watford will be stronger

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Mon, 27 May 2013 21:56:00

Former Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez has been appointed as the new coach of Napoli, where he will replace Walter Mazzarri.

The Spaniard, who left Stamford Bridge following his six-month spell as interim manager, will take charge at the Stadio San Paolo this summer.

"I am very happy and very satisfied for having committed to a great club with an illustrious heritage like Napoli," Benitez said on his official website.

"I understand the history of the city and how the club forms a fundamental part of the culture and traditions of Naples. 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.

"I look forward to experiencing each and every one of the fans of Napoli and

their strong support for this project that we will begin. I'm happy to become a member of that great family of Naples and thus we can share the triumphs together. We will begin from the start as we mean to go on and we will fight from the beginning to achieve success for the fans of SSC Napoli."

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis on Monday evening tweeted a picture of him shaking hands with Benitez on his verified Twitter account, and wrote: "Rafa Benitez is the new coach of Napoli. A great man with international experience. A leader."

And Napoli later confirmed the appointment on their official website, with a statement reading: "Rafa Benitez is the new coach of Napoli. The agreement was signed today in London.

"SSC Napoli is happy to welcome a coach so prestigious in their own family. A welcome also to his collaborators."

Benitez confirmed that fitness coach Francisco de Miguel Moreno and goalkeeping coach Vicente Javier Valero Berchili, who were both part of his

backroom team at Liverpool, Inter Milan and Chelsea will join him once again.

Benitez quickly emerged as the favourite to replace Mazzarri, who resigned from the Serie A runners-up last Sunday night and was confirmed as the new Inter Milan coach on Friday.

He led Chelsea to Europa League glory and a third-placed finish in the Premier League this season after replacing Roberto Di Matteo in November.

The Spaniard won the Champions League while at Liverpool in 2005 and this month's Europa League triumph was his second win in the competition after he won it with Valencia in 2004 before moving to Anfield.

The 53-year-old also won the Primera Division twice with Los Che and has won the English and Italian domestic cups with the Reds and Inter Milan.

He moved to the San Siro the summer of 2010 after Jose Mourinho had guided Inter to the Champions League and he also has some big boots to fill in Naples.

Mazzarri guided Napoli to the Coppa Italia in 2012 and their second-placed finish this term in Serie A is their best league finish since they won the Scudetto in 1990.

Benitez's first job will be attempting to keep hold of star player Edinson Cavani who has been heavily linked with a move away from Italy this summer.

Poznan announced on their official website that the 23-year-old was set to undergo a medical with a view to signing a contract.

The former Queen's Park player, who has made 75 appearances in three seasons at Tannadice, is out of contract next month and is available on a free transfer to clubs outside Scotland.

In a tight and tense Championship play-off final, the match was decided right on the stroke of half-time in extra-time, when Crystal Palace winger Zaha was fouled by Hornets defender Marco Cassetti in the area.

Former Watford striker Kevin Phillips dispatched the spot-kick into the top corner for what proved to be the winner, sending Palace to the Premier League and leaving Watford dejected.

Speaking after the game, a downcast Zola chose to praise the opposition for their display, despite his obvious disappointment.

"It is tough for me and for everyone connected to Watford," he told Sky Sports. "It wasn't our best game but to lose in extra time to a penalty is hard to take.

"To be fair they played well and probably in the 90 minutes deserved more than us so congratulations to them. They did play very well.

"They had a player like Zaha who was on a different level and made the difference.

"When you play a game like this, it will be very tight. The difference can be made by individual qualities and today was the case."

Watford started with seven loan players in their line-up - six of whom are from Granada and Udinese, who are both owned by Watford's owners the Pozzo family.

With the Football League set to tighten rules on loan players ahead of next season, there are fears that Watford's side may break up - something denied by a defiant Zola.

"We're going to be stronger next year, that's for sure. This is the start for us," he added. "Everything we achieved this season, to be here playing was a big bonus for us. It was unexpected but we did it because it was deserved it.

"We are determined to be stronger next year. We will be stronger next year."

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