West Ham co-owner David Sullivan has told The Sun that he had struck an agreement to appoint Rafa Benitez this summer - only to lose out to Real Madrid.
The Croatian played for West Ham as a defender during the 1990's, and makes his return to Upton Park ahead of the new Premier League campaign.
However, co-owner Sullivan has now admitted to The Sun that Benitez - who won the Champions League with West Ham's Premier League rivals Liverpool in 2005 - had agreed to become the new West Ham manager.
That deal fell apart though, as Spanish giants Real Madrid handed Benitez his dream move, and he became their latest boss after the departure of Carlo Ancelotti.
"We spoke to several coaches ahead of Slaven and had everything sorted out with Rafa," said Sullivan. "Then he got a call from Real Madrid and called to say sorry but he was going there, as it was his dream."
"But Slaven should not feel bad that he wasn’t first choice. In fact, he has told us he will prove that he should have been. You can’t argue with that," he added.
Benitez or Bilic?
West Ham have made a fine choice in appointing former Besiktas boss Bilic, but would they have been in a better position with Benitez?
The Spaniard hasn't enjoyed a great deal of success since leaving Liverpool in 2010, but West Ham would have sent out a real signal of intent by appointing a manager who has been with some of the best teams in the world, including Valencia, Inter Milan, Chelsea and Napoli.
Benitez would have brought Premier League experience, which Bilic doesn't possess, at least in terms of being a manager, but West Ham now have to hope that Bilic can show them that they aren't missing anything having failed to land Benitez.