Fabio Pecchia leaves Rafa Benitez, Newcastle for Hellas Verona job

Rafael Benitez's bid to lead Newcastle back to the Premier League at the first time of asking has suffered a blow after his assistant was appointed manager of Hellas Verona.

Fabio Pecchia has been named boss of the Italian side, who finished bottom of Serie A last season, having served alongside Benitez at Napoli, Real Madrid and St James' Park.

Benitez was unable to keep Newcastle in the top flight following his appointment as Steve McClaren's successor in March, but last week signed a three-year contract after opting not to exercise the release clause in the event of relegation.

A Newcastle statement read: "Newcastle United have this evening confirmed that first-team coach Fabio Pecchia will be leaving the club to become manager at Italian club Verona."

Benitez wrote on his official website, rafabenitez.com: "I am sad to see him depart as he has been an excellent professional from the first day and until the last in the years we have worked together.

"Second and most importantly, I am pleased because he has been considered for this new position, he leaves to face these new and exciting challenges, both personally and professionally.''

Benitez praised Pecchia's qualities and Verona's choice of coach. Newcastle added that steps are being made to replace the Italian.

The Newcastle statement added: "Good progress is being made with regard to replacing Pecchia, and a further announcement will be made in the coming days.''