Rafa Benitez is the man West Ham fans want to replace Sam Allardyce

Rafa Benitez 3

West Ham United fans want former Chelsea and Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez to return to the Premier League to replace Sam Allardyce this summer.

Reports in the Daily Mail this week claim the race to replace Sam Allardyce as West Ham United boss this summer is a straight shootout between Rafa Benitez - currently manager of Serie A side Napoli - and Besiktas boss Slaven Bilic.

Should, as is expected, Big Sam depart when his contract expires at the end of the season, the hunt will be on for the Hammers' 15th full-time manager.

The East Londoners have been linked with a host of top managers from across Europe after slipping from fourth at Christmas to 11th with just three wins in 2015.

Former Croatia boss and Hammers cult hero Bilic and ex-Liverpool and Chelsea manager Benitez are two of the names that have been regularly linked to the post.

But it is the Spaniard West Ham fans want to lead them out for their last season at their famous Boleyn Ground and first in their new Olympic Stadium.

That's according to the results of a HITC poll which asked supporters 'Who would you prefer as the next West Ham manager?'.

Benitez edged it with 53% (293) of the overall vote while Bilic got 263 votes (47%).

Maybe it is Benitez's superb list of honours and silverware that have swayed the vote from bringing back 'one of their own'.

He has won titles and cups wherever he has been, including the Champions League and Europa League.

Even his short spell at Napoli has seen him add another two to the cabinet after success in the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa.

However, it has not been all rosy for the man once described by Sir Alex Ferguson as 'the luckiest manager in the world'.

Napoli lost their Europa League semi-final to Dnipro and look unlikely to qualify for next season's Champions League through their league position much to the frustration of the club's notoriously passionate fans.

The 55-year-old is said to be pining for a return to the Premier League and received a touchline ban for Monday’s Serie A match against Cesena after swearing following a recent draw against Parma.

A disciplinary statement published by the Lega Serie A on Tuesday said the former Valencia man “at the end of the match, while leaving the playing field, declared at the top of his voice ‘this is s**t Italian football for you'."

He has also been linked with a return to Anfield and even a surprise switch to replace Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid.

But that by no means rules the Hammers out, with the likes of the London Evening Standard's Ken Dyer, insisting 'West Ham would be a realistic option for the 54-year-old'.

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