Sunderland have a battle on their hands to persuade Roberto Di Matteo to become their new manager, with the Italian reluctant to accept another position unless it is absolutely right for him.
Sunderland are determined to take their time in the search for a new manager after the gamble on the volatile Paolo Di Canio backfired spectacularly.
Di Matteo is the obvious front-runner, and Telegraph Sport understands he already has a relationship with the club’s director of football, Roberto De Fanti, via mutual friends.
The new manager will have to repair the damage done to team morale by Di Canio, with the club rooted to the foot of the table. Di Matteo has the man management skills to do that, as he proved with Chelsea, and also has a Champions League on his CV.
The Italian, though, remains unconvinced that a move to the North East will advance his career.
There are other names under consideration and owner Ellis Short wants to make sure he has a full picture of every candidate’s character, as well as their strengths and weaknesses, before he makes a decision.
Sunderland sources have insisted the search for a new manager starts as a blank canvas and Short will wait to see who applies for the job before deciding on a shortlist.
Former Brighton manager Gus Poyet was under consideration when Di Canio was chosen to replace Martin O’Neill in March and, like Di Matteo, is out of work, so Sunderland would not have to pay compensation.
Watford manager Gianfranco Zola may also be interested, while former England manager Steve McClaren would be keen in talking to Short and De Fanti if they would prefer to go back to a British manager.
Short has been badly stung by the Di Canio farce and will not make the same sort of mistake again. Although he will listen to advice from De Fanti, he will have the final say on the appointment.
Di Canio’s management style has been criticised by several of his peers. O’Neill was incensed by claims from his successor that he inherited a squad not fit enough to succeed in the Premier League, but the harshest words have come from another former Sunderland manager.
Hull City manager Steve Bruce has accused Di Canio of ruling by fear, a tactic he always believed would end in failure because of the nature of Premier League footballers.
“You cannot manage in the Premier League these days through a fear factor,” Bruce told TalkSport. “You’ve got to be able to manage individuals.
“Man management has become more relevant in my experience than coaching. Once you get yourself in the Premier League, theyÔÇÖre all good players and youÔÇÖve got to find a way of getting the best out of them.
“It’s never been my style to criticise anyone in public and I’m disappointed for Paolo. He’s a character. A manager’s lost his job.
“Management is a lonely place and he’s lost his job. I feel sorry for any manager in that position. I’ve gone through it and it’s not nice.”