David Gold insists West Ham want manager Gianfranco Zola to stay, despite speculation he may quit.
Gold was quoted earlier this week claiming Zola could take a ‘sabbatical’ at the end of the season, having secured Premier League safety.
And former England boss Steve McClaren, who is on the verge of leading FC Twente to the Dutch title, has been strongly linked with replacing Zola as Hammers boss.
Portsmouth boss Avram Grant and ex-Tottenham coach Martin Jol have also been linked with the job. But Gold admits he wants to keep Zola – if the 43-year-old opts to stay for a third season.
‘We have to wait until the end of the season but I’d like to think Franco is still going to be our manager next year,’ said Gold.
‘It’s if he wants to stay, though. He’s had two traumatic years here and we will see what he has to say.’
Gold says the decision on Zola’s future will be made by the former Chelsea star alone – without pressure from the club’s bosses.
Keeping West Ham in the top flight appears to have now bought Zola time to decide his own fate but speculation suggests he may walk away from the game after the season’s final two matches again Fulham and Manchester City.
Asked if only Zola will make the call, Gold replied: ‘Yes, that’s the first thing he needs to tell us. There’s no pressure on him.
‘One rumour is Steve McClaren wants to come back to England and people will think that if Franco decides to return to Sardinia, that it adds up for Steve to come here. I can understand journalists thinking Steve is in the frame but I’d like to reassure everyone there’s been no contact [with any other potential manager].’
Gold’s co-chairman David Sullivan has said the entire squad, except midfielder Scott Parker, would be available to buy this summer.
But the club hope to hold on to skipper Matthew Upson, who has a season left on his contract, and Gold wants to keep the bulk of the team which secured survival with a 3-2 win against Wigan last weekend.
He insisted: ‘Any player at every club is up for sale. You could ask if Wayne Rooney was up for sale for £200million? Yes he is.
‘You want to try to keep your best players but what David is saying is that this is the business we are in, clubs buy and sell players every year.
‘We’re anxious to keep the spine of the team but if someone offers huge sums, you can’t hold on to someone being offered double wages.
‘That’s business, it’s football and we have to be realistic.’
By Matthew Nash