MILAN - Rafael Benitez's reign as Inter
Milan coach ended in ignominy on Thursday when he left the
European champions after just six months in charge having dared
to question club owner Massimo Moratti's authority.
"Inter and Rafael Benitez announce that, mutually and with
satisfaction on each side, they have reached an agreement for
the early resolution of his contract," said a statement from the
Serie A club after days of talks.
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The Spaniard, appointed in June after treble-winner Jose
Mourinho left for Real Madrid, was already on shaky ground with
his team slumping to seventh in Serie A and spluttering through
the Champions League group stages.
He had appeared to secure his job with Saturday's World Club
Cup triumph, only to explode in the post-match news conference
and threaten to discuss his future with his agent if signings
did not materialise in the January transfer window.
Benitez directly criticised Moratti, saying he was promised
buys in the close-season which did not arrive and pointing out
that the club recruited five first-teamers last term under
Mourinho and yet did not bring any player in for him.
His ultimatum was too much for Moratti, a man not known for
his patience, especially as it came when the president thought
his side should be celebrating a fifth trophy of a great year
rather than pondering his outburst.
"I want to thank everyone for the support received during my
experience at Inter and on behalf of my staff I personally want
to thank the players, employees and fans of the club who had
confidence in us," Benitez, who had a two-year deal, said in a
"It is my duty to thank president Massimo Moratti for having
chosen me to coach Inter."
Former Liverpool coach Benitez knew when he took the job
that Italian football worked differently from English with the
clubs rather than the coaches buying players.
He even said he saw this as positive element of the move
having left Liverpool after six years in which his transfer
spending at Anfield was heavily criticised by fans and media.
However, a raft of early injuries at Inter, which some
pundits blamed on his new training regime, meant Benitez was
down to the bare bones by late October and the lack of signings
rankled with him more.
The former Valencia boss had become increasingly militant at
Liverpool after a quiet start, famously lambasting Manchester
United manager Alex Ferguson in a news conference before using
bizarre Spanish proverbs about milk, sugar mountains and priests
to criticise his ex-Anfield bosses when he arrived at Inter.
His blast at Inter was a step too far for the Italians,
though, given they were his current employers and he now finds
himself out of work while Inter begin the task of replacing him
knowing they do not have a game until Serie A resumes on January 6.
Zenit St Petersburg coach Luciano Spalletti was tipped by
media and bookmakers to succeed Benitez but the Russian
champions have said the former AS Roma boss is staying.
Ex-AC Milan boss Leonardo, who left the Rossoneri after one
season in management in May, is the new favourite to take over
with former Inter goalkeeper Walter Zenga also mentioned.
Leonardo's former side are now top of Serie A in a galling
reminder to Inter of how far they have fallen since May's
"I'm sorry for the end of the relationship with Benitez but
the separation became inevitable," Moratti told reporters.
"All the names circulating about the next coach are
Inter's chances of a sixth straight Serie A title look
remote whoever takes over as Inter lie 13 points behind Milan.
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