Former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti is believed to be high on Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner’s list of preferred options to replace Gerard Houllier as manager, Press Association Sport understands.
Villa are drawing up a short list, also likely to include Fulham’s Mark Hughes and Everton’s David Moyes, after Houllier’s nine-month reign ended because of concerns over his health.
They are hoping to appoint Houllier’s successor before the end of June to give him time to assess the current squad and bring in new signings before the 2011-12 campaign begins.
There has been intense speculation that Hughes is bound for Villa Park and he is the current favourite with the bookmakers.
He signed a two-year deal last summer although he can activate a get-out clause for the final 12 months.
But Ancelotti is also understood to be impressing Lerner given his outstanding track record. He led the Blues to the double in his first season at Stamford Bridge before being sacked by Chelsea last month having ended the season trophyless.
Lerner would have to convince Ancelotti that Villa match his own ambitions and can mount a serious challenge for Champions League football.
Villa may also find Ancelotti’s wage demands could be a stumbling block after reportedly earning around £5million last season at Chelsea.
He has been linked with a move to newly-promoted QPR should they dispense with Neil Warnock.
Ultimately, Hughes may turn out to be a more realistic proposition for Villa should he decide to seek fresh pastures.
He led Fulham to eighth spot in the Premier League and a Europa League spot via the Fair Play League in his first season.
But Moyes, the number one choice of fans in a local newspaper poll, ex-England coach Steve McClaren, Martin Jol and current Wigan boss Roberto Martinez are also in the frame.
A source close to Villa said: “The club are aware of the need to bring in the right man with the right pedigree.
“But they are also aware of the important of giving him time to make his mark before the new season after last summer.”
That is a reference to Villa having to start looking for a new manager just five days before the start of the 2010-11 campaign after Martin O’Neill decided to end his four-year reign, and former Villa boss Graham Taylor agreed that it was important to give the new man time.
He told BBC Sport: “It is important that (chief executive) Paul Faulkner and Randy Lerner, if they decide to get rid of Gerard as they have done, that they follow that up soon,” he added.
“If they decide they want a manager who is under contract with a club that might take some time with compensation to be agreed.
“Each manager has a certain viewpoint on players when they come into a role and if they come in too late, as happened last year, they will have to wait until December when Gerard was able to bring in Bent and Jean Makoun.”
Houllier did not take charge until mid-September and was left to play catch-up in trying to make his mark on the club with the transfer window closed.
The ex-Liverpool manager has left Villa after nine months in charge to allow him more time to recuperate after his heart problem.