Rafa Benitez was just hours away from joining a mid-table Premier League club instead of La Liga giants Real Madrid, it has been revealed today.
West Ham chairman David Sullivan has told Sky Sports that a deal was pretty much wrapped up with the Spaniard before he decided to opt for a return to his home town.
“We were two hours from getting Benitez and then Real came in. We had agreed a contract and everything.
“I’m a great believer what happens, happens. He is a top manager whatever anybody says and I think he’d have done a wonderful job for us.”
This nugget of information gives a fascinating insight into just how sought after managers of Benitez’s stature are in the modern game, as well as just how strong each and every Premier League club is financially.
Obviously the pull of Benitez’s old club was too strong in this instance, but it still gives us an interesting snapshot of how financially powerful England’s top flight is.
In the interview with Sky, Sullivan also noted how current boss Slaven Bilić was considered the ‘best of the rest’.
“This time around, it is common knowledge we tried to get a very high level of manager, with vast experience and one of them went to Real Madrid after we had agreed everything with him, and therefore we went with the best of the rest – and Slaven was the best of the rest.”
While Bilić’s side’s early-season form took them to new heights near the top of the league, they have since fallen away. The Hammers are, however, only four points off fifth place so Sullivan and co’s decision to recruit the 47-year-old appear justified at present.
Bilić’s appointment may be, in Sullivan’s eyes, the ‘best of the rest’ but he also revealed how the club attempted to get the much sought after Jurgen Klopp before he elected for Liverpool.
“We tried (Jurgen) Klopp as well but he wouldn’t come because he said he wanted a break. But I’m glad with the manager we have got.”
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena