May 11, 2010

LONDON, (Reuters) -- West Ham United fired Italian manager Gianfranco Zola on Tuesday.

"West Ham United confirm they have terminated the contract of Gianfranco Zola," the Premier League club said on its Web site (

"The board of directors would like to thank him for his contribution and wish him well for the future. The club will now be focusing its efforts on seeking a replacement."

Former Chelsea and Italy striker Zola joined West Ham in September 2008 for his first club management role but after a promising start he endured a turbulent time at the east London club and narrowly avoided relegation this season.

Heavily in debt following the collapse of former owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson's business empire, the club was bought by ex-Birmingham City owners David Gold and David Sullivan in January and Zola's future has since been the subject of media speculation.

Zola, 43, hinted at disagreements with the club's boardroom powerbrokers in April when he said he had not been consulted over a bid for West Bromwich Albion midfielder Graham Dorrans.

The diminutive former Italy under-21 assistant coach, who replaced Alan Curbishley as West Ham manager, said he was surprised to learn of the bid in a newspaper. Zola capped a strong 2008-09 campaign with a ninth place finish, just two points short of a Europa League spot, and the Italian penned a new deal until 2013 in April last year.

Boardroom changes, financial uncertainty and poor form contributed to an unhappier spell this season as the club finished 17th, one place and five points clear of the relegation zone.

Croatia coach and former West Ham defender Slaven Bilic, Portsmouth boss Avram Grant and former Manchester City coach Mark Hughes are the bookmakers' favourites to fill the vacancy.

West Ham said on Tuesday it would make no further comment on the matter.

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