The former Chelsea midfielder had a second interview in Rome yesterday and club officials are set to make him their top recommendation to the Hammers board today.
Zola hugely impressed West Ham chief executive Scott Duxbury during his interview, and also has the support of club technical director Gianluca Nani.
According to club insiders, Zola’s enthusiasm, his experience of the Premier League, his commitment to entertaining football and his coaching experience with the Italy Under-21 side have pushed him to the top of the list.
Roberto Donadoni also impressed but Slaven Bilic’s chances look to have receded dramatically after question marks over when the Croatia coach would be available led to some doubts about his commitment.
Michael Laudrup is not out of the running yet – Duxbury and Nani will make their final report to the board only after interviewing him today.
West Ham’s selection process has already ruled out Gerard Houllier and the former Scotland midfielder John Collins, plus former Ajax boss Martin Olsen.
Yesterday, club director Mike Lee confirmed Zola and Donadoni were leading candidates. Lee said: We have a very strong shortlist and it’s going to be a tough decision with some exciting candidates.
“From the meetings that have taken place so far the two that have really shone have been Donadoni and Zola.’’
“Slaven Bilic could potentially be on that shortlist but it depends very much upon his availability. If for whatever reason he was not available until January in terms of working with us I’m afraid that will rule him out.”