The Hammers are set to part ways with the 60-year-old when his contract expires this summer and have identified the Napoli coach as a target to replace him at Upton Park
By Harry Sherlock Follow on Twitter
West Ham have made their first move to lure Napoli coach Rafael Benitez to Upton Park as they continue their search for a new manager.
The Hammers’ owners, David Gold and David Sullivan, are set to part ways with Sam Allardyce this summer when his two-year deal expires, with the hunt for a new boss already under way.
Marcelo Bielsa was previously identified as West Ham’s key target but interest has cooled, with several figures at the club said to be uncomfortable at the prospect of working with a coach who does not speak English.
Instead, the club have contacted intermediaries of Benitez and the Spaniard is believed to be keen to listen to an offer.
Benitez left England in 2013 following a short, turbulent spell at Chelsea but it is understood that he would be open to a return to the Premier League, with his camp even seeking assurances that West Ham will not look elsewhere until his future in Italy is settled.
The Hammers were prepared to offer Bielsa close to €35 million to spend in the transfer market and that kitty remains untouched, with the club boosted by their impending move to the Olympic Stadium.
The move will significantly increase West Ham’s spending power and there is a belief that Benitez would be open to the idea of leading the club into their new home.
Reports have also linked Benitez with Manchester City and Real Madrid – with both Manuel Pellegrini and Carlo Ancelotti under pressure – and the former Liverpool boss is unsure where he stands at Napoli.
Benitez’s future has become more uncertain following Napoli’s shock Europa League exit at the hands of Dnpiro on Thursday, despite president Aurelio De Laurentiis saying last month he would like the 55-year-old to continue.
“I have to talk with De Laurentiis and he will take a decision in the next few days,” Benitez said after the loss in Ukraine.