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'West Ham were three hours away from appointing Rafa Benitez'

The former Liverpool boss eventually opted to join Real Madrid to replace Carlo Ancelotti.

WEST HAM CO-CHAIRMAN David Sullivan has revealed that the club came within three hours of appointing Rafael Benitez as their new manager earlier this summer.

The Hammers embarked on a lengthy managerial search following Sam Allardyce’s departure at the end of last season, with the likes of Carlo Ancelotti, Marcelo Bielsa and David Moyes all linked with the Upton Park hotseat.

The Hammers eventually approached Benitez, who has won trophies at Valencia, Liverpool, Inter, Chelsea and Napoli, and Sullivan has now outlined just how close the club came to appointing the 55-year-old before he opted to join Real Madrid.

“Rafa Benitez was within three hours of signing for us,” he told the London Evening Standard.

“Every clause in his contract was agreed and then he went to Real Madrid. It was a real blow because he is a really experienced manager in England and done really well in Italy.

“We had an agreement in place but you have to pick yourself up, look who else is available and pick the best you can.”

West Ham instead appointed Slaven Bilic to replace Allardyce and Sullivan insists that the Croatian has the club’s full support, with the club taking three points from their opening three Premier League games.

“Whoever you take is a gamble. The bottom line is we have a manager. He has our 100 per cent support. We will support him in the transfer market. We like him,” he added.

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