Zola still front-runner for Hammers job

Gianfranco Zola remains the clear favourite to be named as West Ham’s new manager after the club’s board ruled out Slaven Bilic.

Gianfranco Zola remains the clear favourite to be named as West Ham’s new manager after the club’s board ruled out Slaven Bilic.

The club’s directors are understood to have made Zola, 42, their top choice at a meeting on Monday, narrowly ahead of fellow Italian Roberto Donadoni.

West Ham will look to complete talks as soon as possible but may face a slight delay – the former Chelsea midfielder is joint coach of the Italy under-21 side and they are in action in Croatia on Tuesday night.

It is understood Zola’s years of experience in the Premier League have given him the slight edge over Donadoni, the former Italy coach who resigned from that job after a disappointing Euro 2008 campaign.

Donadoni still remains in the frame in the unlikely event that a deal is not clinched with Zola, but Bilic is out of the running.

West Ham hope they will unveil their first foreign manager at a news conference on Thursday.

Bilic’s hopes of succeeding Alan Curbishley foundered on the complications surrounding his release from his current job as coach of Croatia, though he was never top of West Ham’s wish list.

The Hammers’ chief executive Scott Duxbury and technical director Gianluca Nani have led the selection process and the pair on Monday provided a detailed report to a meeting of the club’s board.

They outlined the merits of as many as 30 names who were initially considered and then the reasons why they were whittled down to a shortlist of six.

The report also recommended Zola and Donadoni should be regarded as the leading contenders.

Both Italians fulfilled West Ham’s criteria of wanting a manager with a commitment to playing attractive football and to developing young players, a good media presence and a strong track record.

Donadoni, the former Italy national team coach, has more managerial experience than Zola but he does not have the 42-year-old’s long association with English football.

The news will come as a blow to Bilic, who played for West Ham during the 1990s, and whose representatives have been pushing his credentials.

His success with Croatia meant he was included on West Ham’s initial shortlist but the club were told he wanted to continue coaching his national side until the end of the year at the same time as managing the Hammers.

Although the club did not rule out that as a possibility, the directors felt that both Zola and Donadoni better fitted the model of the manager they were looking for.

Michael Laudrup, the Danish former coach of Spanish side Getafe, was due to have an interview on Monday morning but he was ruled out after it emerged he was set to accept an offer from Spartak Moscow.

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