Premier League side West Ham United were two hours away from hiring Rafa Benitez before Real Madrid swooped, according to their chairman.
David Sullivan told the Daily Telegraph that everything was in place for the former Liverpool and Inter Milan manager to take over from Sam Allardyce, who left the Upton Park club last summer.
But when the 10-time Champions League winners came calling after getting rid of Carlo Ancelotti, Benitez made a quick decision to join the Santiago Bernabeu side.
“We were two hours from getting Benitez and then Real came in. We had agreed a contract and everything,” Sullivan said.
Benitez has been under serious pressure in recent weeks at Real after losing 4-0 in the Clasico againt Barcelona as well as overseeing loses against Sevilla and Villarreal. With fans unhappy with the style of football being served up this season and with talk of arguments with senior players in the squad, reports have suggested Benitez could be sacked soon – with Zinedine Zidane or Jose Mourinho lined up to replace him.
But despite missing out on his man, Sullivan said Benitez is still a world class manager.
“He is a top manager, whatever anybody says, and I think he’d have done a wonderful job for us,” he commented.