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Napoli appoint Maurizio Sarri as manager to replace Rafa Benitez

Napoli have chosen Maurizio Sarri to lead the team forward as coach following Rafael Benitez's departure for Real Madrid.

The 56-year-old tactician guided Empoli to promotion in only his second season in Tuscany before steering the minnows to a 15th-placed finish in Serie A last month, attracting attention from Naples -- his hometown -- and elsewhere.

A tweet published by the Stadio San Paolo club on Thursday night read: "Napoli can announce that the post of head coach for the 2015-16 season will be filled by Maurizio Sarri."

After spending 24 years coaching in the lower divisions of Italian football, Sarri shrugged off a lack of top-flight experience to steer Empoli to safety with an enterprising brand of play that shone a light on influential midfielder Mirko Valdifiori, rewarded with a call-up to the national team and a first cap in March.

The challenge at Napoli lies in rejuvenating a team that fell short during two years under Benitez. The Partenopei finished second under his predecessor Walter Mazzarri in 2013 but could only manage third place and then fifth place during the Spaniard's tenure.

Sarri's first task will be to convince an unsettled squad he is the man to lead them back into the top-three, with a number of key players, including Gonzalo Higuain and Jose Callejon originally lured to Naples by Benitez now understood to be unsure about their own futures in southern Italy.

Reports in Italy suggest Sarri's contract includes the option of a second term which can only be triggered by the club.

Former Roma boss Luciano Spalletti and one-time Italy coach Cesare Prandelli -- unemployed following an ill-fated stint at Galatasaray -- were among the other mooted contenders for the position.