West Ham United last night made Gianfranco Zola an offer to become their new manager. The former Chelsea striker has emerged, marginally, as the first-choice candidate ahead of Roberto Donadoni following a meeting of the club's board yesterday.
It is hoped, if Zola accepts, that a formal announcement will be made later today, with the Italian attending this Saturday's Premier League match away to West Bromwich Albion. However, Donadoni is still regarded as a strong option and the deliberations were continuing.
West Ham have completely ruled out approaching the Croatia coach Slaven Bilic, despite making contact with his advisers, while an interview with Michael Laudrup, scheduled to take place yesterday, was cancelled late on Sunday evening. The Dane's representatives telephoned the club to say he would only attend if he was guaranteed to be made an offer. Laudrup met with Spartak Moscow on Saturday and has been offered an extremely lucrative 18-month contract with the Russian club which he will now accept. An announcement will be made tomorrow.
West Ham had originally drawn up a seven-strong shortlist to replace Alan Curbishley who resigned last week. They then ruled out Gérard Houllier, Morten Olsen and Roberto Mancini without meeting any of the trio. John Collins, the only Briton on the shortlist, was interviewed on Friday at Upton Park – the same day that the chief executive Scott Duxbury and technical director Gianluca Nani met with Donadoni, the former coach of Italy – before being discounted.
Nani then flew to Rome on Saturday to meet with Zola and, after being impressed by the 42-year-old, he recommended that Duxbury meet with him the following day. The pair then reported back to the West Ham board yesterday and went through the candidates – and other coaches who had expressed an interest in being approached – before it was decided that it will come down to a straight choice between Zola and Donadoni.
"Zola and Donadoni have come shining through," said a spokesman. But there is a sense that Zola, because of his popularity in England, transcending the fact that he played for just one club, and, more importantly, because of his commitment to attacking, stylish football, has the edge. Zola is joint-coach of the Italian Under-21 side along with another former Chelsea player, Pierluigi Casiraghi.
Despite West Ham's confidence, appointing either Zola or Donadoni would represent a risk, although it would also be a triumph for Nani and the structure he and Duxbury want to operate at the club. Zola has never coached a club before while Donadoni has never worked in England. Nevertheless, both are high-class candidates.Reuse content