West Ham: Rafa Benitez 'signed a contract to become manager'

Rafa Benitez, Real Madrid manager
Rafael Benitez is reportedly under pressure at Real Madrid, with his team behind Atletico Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga

West Ham were "two hours" away from appointing Rafael Benitez as manager in the summer before hiring Slaven Bilic, Hammers co-owner David Sullivan says.

"We were two hours from getting Benitez and then Real Madrid came in. We had agreed a contract," Sullivan said.

"He is a top manager whatever anybody says, and I think he'd have done a wonderful job for us."

Sullivan also said West Ham approached Jurgen Klopp, who joined Liverpool instead to replace Brendan Rodgers.

West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic
Slaven Bilic, who played 54 times for West Ham between 1996 and 1997, was appointed manager in June

"We tried 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," added Sullivan.

West Ham are 10th in the Premier League and have lost only four league matches since former Croatia boss Bilic took over.

Sullivan also heaped praise on injured midfielder Dimitri Payet - calling him "the best player I've signed in 25 years" - and said the Hammers will make Manuel Lanzini's season-long loan from Al Jazira Club a permanent deal "by February or March", two months earlier than planned.

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