Donadoni out of West Ham running

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The Independent Football

Gianfranco Zola looks certain to become the next West Ham manager after his closest rival withdrew from the contest to replace Alan Curbishley.

Roberto Donadoni, the former Italy manager, pulled out after it became clear that Zola was West Ham's first choice.

Donadoni said in a statement released to PA Sport: "I would like to thank West Ham United Football Club for approaching and speaking with me in relation to the vacant manager's position at the club.

"I welcomed the opportunity of speaking with such a prominent Premiership club and of course, the opportunity of coming to the English Premiership.

"However, is does appear that the board have not yet, after some time, come to an agreement and a conclusion on who the successful candidate should be.

"It is important for me to feel that I have the full support of the club and I have therefore this morning taken the decision to withdraw myself from the candidate shortlist for the club."

West Ham have opened talks with Zola, meanwhile, and are hopeful of announcing tomorrow that the former Chelsea player is their new manager.

Negotiations have been slightly interrupted by the 42-year-old's involvement with the Italy Under-21 side's preparations for a match in Croatia tonight.

A formal announcement is expected tomorrow, however, and Zola is likely to be presented at a news conference on Thursday.

The only other contender, Slaven Bilic, was ruled out by West Ham's board yesterday.