West Ham “agreed” a contract with Rafael Benitez in the summer before Real Madrid entered the running at the 11th hour, according to co-owner David Sullivan.
The Hammers were “two hours” away from appointing the former Liverpool boss before they approached Slaven Bilic but Benitez, 55, had his head turned by the La Liga giants and eventually signed a three-year deal in Madrid in June 2015.
“We were two hours from getting Benitez and then Real Madrid came in. We had agreed a contract,” Sullivan told The Guardian.
“He is a top manager whatever anybody says, and I think he’d have done a wonderful job for us.”
Sullivan also claimed West Ham approached Jurgen Klopp, who later joined Liverpool instead to replace Brendan Rodgers.
“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 will also make Manuel Lanzini’s season-long loan from Al Jazira Club a permanent move two months earlier than planned.
“The contract we have is 100% watertight. We have until April to make it permanent but we’ll probably do it before the due date,” said Sullivan. “He is a fantastic player and a fantastic man. By February or March, he will be a permanent West Ham player,” added Sullivan.
“He could be a top, top, top player. He’s already sensational and he could be as good as any player in the world.”