European soccer champion Inter Milan fired coach Rafael Benitez six months after he was appointed and five days after he led the team to the Club World Cup title.
Inter said on its website it reached an agreement with Benitez for the early termination of his contract. The 50-year-old Spaniard joined on a two-year deal after he left English Premier League club Liverpool following a six-year stint there.
“I’m sorry about ending the relationship with Benitez, but the separation became inevitable,” Inter President Massimo Moratti was cited as saying by Italian news agency Ansa. “All of the names circulating about his successor are interesting.”
Brazil’s Leonardo, a former AC Milan coach, is the favorite to replace Benitez, La Gazzetta dello Sport said yesterday. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Italian coach Luciano Spalletti has also been linked with the post.
Benitez never matched the success his predecessor Jose Mourinho achieved in leading Inter to the Serie A, Italian Cup and Champions League titles last season. The Portuguese coach left to join Real Madrid.
Inter has slipped to seventh place in Serie A under Benitez, winning six of 15 league games. It’s 13 points behind leader AC Milan in Serie A. After victory in the FIFA Club World Cup last weekend, Benitez criticized the club’s management for failing to give him sufficient funds to bring in new players, saying “four or five” might be needed. He also suggested the club could get a new coach if it was unhappy with him.
In recent days, Benitez returned to England where he still has a house near Liverpool. News reports said he was trying to agree on a financial package with Inter to leave the club.
He’s getting a severance payment of 3 million euros ($3.9 million), according to Ansa. U.K. press reports said he got at least 4 million pounds ($6.2 million) when he left Liverpool in June.
Inter, which will face Bayern Munich after qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League, defeated the German team in the final when it won the elite competition last season under Mourinho. Inter won the Club World Cup -- a much less prestigious competition -- by beating Congolese team TP Mazembe Englebert 3-0 in the final in Abu Dhabi on Dec. 18.
“Inter thanks Rafael Benitez for his work in leading his team to success in the Italian Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup,” Inter said. Benitez thanked Inter for the “important professional experience and for the victories achieved together,” the club added.
Benitez led 18-time English league winner Liverpool to the final of the Champions League twice -- winning the trophy in 2005 -- and took the F.A. Cup in 2006. However, he failed to win the domestic league title for the Reds, who haven’t secured it since 1990. In 2008-09 the club came second in the Premier League behind Manchester United, but slumped to seventh last season, the worst placing in 11 years.