West Ham co-owner David Sullivan discusses how close Rafa Benitez came to joining the club

Slaven Bilic

Rafa Benitez was just three hours away from becoming West Ham's manager this summer.

According to West Ham United co-chairman David Sullivan, in an interview with the Evening Standard, Rafael Benitez came within three hours of becoming the club's new manager this summer, before making a U-turn and joining La Liga giants Real Madrid.

The Spaniard - who had previously spent time in England with Liverpool and Chelsea - was appointed as manager of Los Blancos in June following Carlo Ancelotti's dismissal from the Santiago Bernabeu.

However, Sullivan has now been discussing just how close to joining the Hammers Benitez really was.

He told the Evening Standard: "Rafa Benitez was within three hours of signing for us.

"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."

Following Benitez’s U-turn, the West Ham hierarchy opted to appoint former Croatia and Besiktas manager – and ex-Hammers player – Slaven Bilic, who has enjoyed mixed fortunes throughout the opening months of his time at the helm.

After a disappointing early exit from the Europa League qualifying stages, the Hammers are still yet to find their form in the Premier League, with home defeats to Leicester City and Bournemouth overshadowing a terrific opening weekend victory at Arsenal.

To date, the club occupy 11th place in the Premier League table, with just three points from a possible nine on offer.

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch