Rafael Benitez: Real Madrid chief suggests appointment close

Rafael Benitez
Benitez is to step down as Napoli manager after Sunday's last game of the season against Lazio

A Real Madrid vice-president has given the strongest indication yet that Rafael Benitez is to be appointed head coach at the Spanish club.

Benitez, who steps down as Napoli boss after Sunday's last game of the season, is expected to replace Carlo Ancelotti.

Speaking at a Madrid fans' meeting on Saturday, Eduardo Fernandez de Bla said: "Carlo Ancelotti is a phenomenon.

"He was the best coach in the world, just as Jose Mourinho was two years ago and, from this week, Benitez will be."

Madrid sacked Ancelotti after he only won the Club World Cup this year, despite the Italian having led the club to a 10th European Cup and the Copa del Rey last term.

Chelsea boss Mourinho was sacked by Real in 2013 after winning one league title and one Spanish Cup during three seasons in charge.

Spaniard Benitez, 55, led Liverpool to the Champions League title in 2005 and won the Europa League with Chelsea in 2013 before joining Serie A club Napoli, where he won the Coppa Italia in 2014.

Victory against Lazio in Naples on Sunday would see Napoli leapfrog their opponents into third and Serie A's final Champions League qualification spot.

Benitez also won two La Liga titles and the Uefa Cup with Valencia between 2001 and 2004, and coached Madrid's reserve side from 1993 to 1995.

Rafael Benitez
Benitez led Liverpool to the Champions League in 2005 - beating AC Milan on penalties in Istanbul