West Ham are today expected to start talks with Gianfranco Zola with a view to appointing the Italian as the club’s new manager.
Zola remains the clear favourite to succeed Alan Curbishley after the club’s board yesterday ruled out Slaven Bilic’s claims.
The club’s directors are understood to have made Zola, 42, their top choice 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 tonight.
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 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.
Kia Joorabchian, who works as an advisor to West Ham, said both Zola and Donadoni had impressed.
He told Sky Sports News: “Zola has a lot of experience in the Premier League, he was admired by every fan in the league irrespective of which club they supported.
“He has built a big reputation for himself in Italy. He hasn’t Premier League experience as a manager but he understands the Premier League very much.
“But Donadoni has vast experience and is a good candidate.
“They are moving fast. They would like to appoint a new manager before the weekend but it is a process they will consider carefully.
“It is a different system, a more European system of working and it will be a manager who will be working under that style in order to minimise and avoid errors which have occurred in the past.”