Manuel Pellegrini has edged ahead of Rafael Benitez and Unai Emery in the race to become West Ham manager, sources have told Goal.
The Hammers are currently searching for a new boss following the departure of David Moyes at the end of the season.
Goal reported earlier this week that co-chairman David Sullivan had scheduled talks with Emery and Benitez, but it has now been confirmed that Pellegrini has been added to the list.
Indeed, West Ham issued a statement revealing they hoped to appoint a manager with Premier League experience, and it is understood that Emery’s lack of English has proven prohibitive to his appointment.
Hebei China Fortune manager Pellegrini has thus become the frontrunner, with the Chilean having won the Premier League during his three-year stay at Manchester City.
Sources at the club expect Pellegrini to meet with Sullivan in the next few days but, contrary to reports in Chile, a deal has not yet been done.
The Irons are keen to appoint the 64-year-old, however, as they crave a manager with a history of playing attractive, expansive football.
Of course, it remains to be seen if Pellegrini will be willing to leave Hebei, with the club less than halfway through their CSL season. They are currently ninth.
Benitez, thus, remains an attractive option, and one which West Ham have pursued before.
The club agreed a deal with the Spaniard to appoint him in 2015, only for Benitez to make a U-turn once Real Madrid made their own interest known. West Ham instead appointed former defender Slaven Bilic.
However, there is an acknowledgment that it will be difficult to extract Benitez from his contract at Newcastle, which currently contains a £6 million ($8m) release clause. The former Liverpool and Real boss is also understood to be keen to earn around £9m-per-year should he receive the job.
Pellegrini, too, would be an expensive appointment, as he currently earns roughly £15.7m-per-year in China in a league where most clubs are incredibly rich, per ClaretandHugh, but he is not expected to demand such sums from Sullivan and his co-chairman David Gold.
While both Pellegrini and Benitez are at the top of the Hammers’ list, Emery remains a possibility should talks fall through.
So too does Claudio Ranieri, who has been heavily linked with the job since his departure from Nantes. The former Leicester City manager, though, is regarded as a “back-up” should all other options fail.
Paulo Fonseca, another manager who interviewed for the job, has signed a new deal at Shakhtar Donetsk.