Scottish Premier League

Lennon urged Commons U-turn

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Fri, 24 May 2013 17:52:00

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has claimed that Rafa Benitez has agreed a two-year contract to become the club's new coach.

Walter Mazzarri revealed last weekend that he is leaving Napoli this summer and he is widely expected to take charge at Inter Milan.

A string of names, including Roberto Mancini, Manuel Pellegrini and Jurgen Klopp, had been linked with the position at Napoli.

However, De Laurentiis has been in London to discuss a deal and he expects current interim Chelsea manager Benitez to sign a contract until 2015.

"I've given myself a gift for my 64th birthday," De Laurentiis told Sky Sport Italia. "Benitez will be the next Napoli coach.

"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."

Benitez has been at Chelsea since November after replacing the sacked Roberto Di Matteo and he has led the club to Europa League final success and qualification for next season's UEFA Champions League.

He has previous experience of coaching in Serie A after being appointed Inter Milan boss in the summer of 2010 after leaving Liverpool.

The 53-year-old won the Club World Cup with Inter, but was sacked just a few days later after barely half a season at the San Siro helm.

The Spaniard will be taking over a Napoli side that finished second in Serie A this season, nine points adrift of champions Juventus.

The 29-year-old claimed on Tuesday he would be putting his family and club career first after announcing he no longer wished to add to his 12 Scotland caps.

The decision raised some eyebrows with the Scottish Football Association's performance director, Mark Wotte, who questioned the player's "pride, desire and ambition" on his Twitter account, an assertion refuted by Hoops skipper Scott Brown.

Speaking at Hampden Park ahead of Sunday's Scottish Cup final against Hibernian, the Parkhead boss added his contribution to the debate.

"I tried to talk him out of it, obviously," he said. "I think he has a lot to offer still but I respect his decision.

"I mean, it is great for me and Celtic that we have a player who won't be travelling with his country and who will be fresh to play for his club but at 29 he still has plenty to offer.

"He is at the peak of his game, he is in great condition, he has had a marvellous season.

"I spoke to Gordon Strachan about it, who was disappointed.

"But looking at Gordon's comments he has left the door open for Kris.

"If ever there comes a time when he may have a re-think then he may go back.

"He has a young family as well and I think that takes its toll.

"Scott Brown made a very good point the other day. We stay in hotels home and away and we have had a European campaign and internationals on top of that. You are away from your family three or four days a week sometimes.

"I totally understand Kris's point on it. But from a footballing point of view, like I said, he still has plenty to give the game."

The Northern Irishman was "delighted" to discover this week he is free to take his place in the dugout on Sunday.

Lennon was found guilty by a Scottish Football Association disciplinary tribunal of entering the "playing zone" within 15 minutes of the final whistle of Celtic's 3-1 SPL defeat by Motherwell last month while serving a three-match touchline ban.

Lennon's ban for breaking the SFA's rule 205, however, has been suspended until the end of next season and he will be on the touchline as his side go for the domestic double.

"It is very important and I am just looking forward to it now," said the former Celtic skipper, who served a touchline ban during the 2011 League Cup final defeat by Rangers.

"I played in plenty of cup finals so to take the team out for another one is pretty special.

"I missed a cup final a couple of years ago and it feels there is a part of you missing.

"You are not able to do your job properly, you can't affect the players as much as you want to.

"These opportunities don't come round very often so to lead the team out on Sunday will mean a lot to me."

Lennon confirmed, though, that Hoops defender Adam Matthews will be missing with the hamstring complaint which has kept him out since March.

Midfielders Victor Wanyama and Beram Kayal are suspended while defender Charlie Mulgrew (knee) and winger James Forrest (hamstring) will be assessed.

Perhaps more significantly, though, is the absence of Hibs skipper James McPake, who has failed to overcome a back complaint even though he had an injection last week in a last-gasp bid to make the game.

However, Lennon is not reading too much into that "obvious" blow for the Easter Road side.

"He is their captain and I think he has made a big difference to Hibs over the past two seasons," he said. "He will be a big loss that's for sure.

"But it will not change the way we are approaching the game.

"Whether it is a boost or not (to us)...I am sure it will damage Hibs more than it will damage us."

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