Ruud Gullit is wanted by Fulham as their new manager to restore their credibility after a season which has left them clinging to Premiership survival.
The Dutchman, 44, is on a shortlist of candidates who will be considered next week and has influential boardroom support from owner Mohamed Al Fayed’s two sons.
Karim, 23, and Omar, 20, want a highprofile name and both are said to be keen on the man who became the first non-British boss to lift the FA Cup as player-manager with Chelsea in 1997.
Gullit, who had spells in charge of Chelsea and Newcastle in the 1990s, believes he is ready to return to Premiership coaching after a spell as a Sky Sports pundit and television analyst in Holland, but he has not coached since an unsuccessful season with Feyenoord in 2004-5.
Fulham insiders have indicated that it was the Fayed brothers’ fear of relegation which led to the downfall of previous manager Chris Coleman, whose temporary successor, Lawrie Sanchez, hoped he could do enough to be given the job on a permanent basis.
But Sanchez, who is also manager of Northern Ireland, has struggled to turn around the ailing club’s fortunes. Before yesterday’s home win over Liverpool all but ensured their safety, his spell in charge had produced defeats at Reading and Arsenal and a draw at home to Blackburn. They also face a tricky trip to Middlesbrough on Sunday.
Sanchez admitted last week: “I was brought here to keep Fulham in the Premiership. The big questions are for the people above me. I’m relishing the job and hopefully, come May 13, I will have done what I was asked to do.
“If so, it would have been a fantastic month. I’d consider it a great achievement if we stayed up, but it would also be doing the job required of me.”
Gullit feels it is time he returned to management. Chosen to succeed Glenn Hoddle in 1996, he quickly earned a reputation for ‘sexy football’. By lifting the FA Cup at the end of his first season,he ended the club’s 26-year wait for a major trophy.
But the following season, with Chelsea in the second place in the Premiership and reaching the quarterfinals in two cup competitions, he was sacked, following reports of dressing-room rows and a much more costly clash with Chelsea chairman Ken Bates.
Gullit replaced Kenny Dalglish at Newcastle in 1998, leading them to an FA Cup final, but he spent only a year and a day in the job before quitting, again after disputes with key players, most notably local hero Alan Shearer.