Just under 12 months ago Rafa Benitez lost Fabio Pecchia.

The pair had arrived at St James Park in March 2016 as Newcastle battled relegation.

Pecchia had also been with Rafa Benitez at Real Madrid and Napoli but when he was offered the manager’s job at relegated Hellas Verona, Rafa’s assistant moved to Italy in June last year.

After finishing rock bottom of Serie A, Hellas Verona were in a right mess, but on Thursday night Fabio Pecchia clinched automatic promotion at the first attempt, albeit only on goal difference.

Rafa Benitez has now sent a message of congratulations via his own personal website:

‘Fabio and Filippo, also back to the elite’

“When we won the championship with Newcastle this season, we thought it’s a great sporting year and now to confirm it our great friends Fabio Pecchia and Filippo Fusco have guided Hellas Verona to promotion in Italy.

“We send our warm congratulations to two wonderful professionals and dear friends.

“Also to Hellas and the city of Verona, you are all back in the elite.”

Thursday (last) night saw the second promotion place to Serie A decided, with it falling between Hellas Verona and Fromisone.

SPAL finished as Champions of Serie B with 78 points and Hellas & Frosinone ended up joint second on 74 points, however goal difference just took Rafa’s former assistant over the line.

Thursday night saw Fromisone win 2-1 over Pro Vercelli, with Hellas Verona needing a point then for promotion – a nervy 0-0 draw at Cesena doing the job.

After the promotion was confirmed, the club’s President said he was confident they would be able to keep hold of Rafa Benitez’ former assistant as they move back to the Italian top tier.

Hellas Verona President Maurizio Setti:

“Pecchia is staying, we’ll move forward with him.

“I never had any doubts he could do it – even when it looked like things weren’t going well for us.”

Rafa Benitez official statement when Fabio Pecchia left Newcastle – 1 June 2016:

“Today I would like to congratulate Fabio Pecchia who, until now, has been my ‘assistant ‘ in my recent managerial appointments at SSC Napoli, Real Madrid CF and more recently – Newcastle United FC.

“Fabio Pecchia has just accepted an offer from Hellas Verona and leaves us to return to Italy. To the football league we both fondly know as ‘Calcio’, he returns to head up an interesting and exciting project in Hellas Verona.

“For this reason, I’d like to highlight two points:

“First, 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 been considered for this new position, he leaves to face these new and exciting challenges, both personally and professionally. I wish you all the best, good luck and I can only say thank you for everything, Fabio.

“In my opinion, Hellas Verona are right in choosing Fabio and Filippo Fusco, another person close to me. Filippo is an individual who is professional, diligent, capable and equally qualified as Fabio is. This is another reason to be pleased for Fabio’s departure and subsequent journey.

“I wish them both the best of the luck, strength and encouragement for their new and future endeavours.”