By Wayne Veysey | Chief correspondent
Fulham have held talks with Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld as they step up their hunt for a new manager, Goal.com UK can reveal.
Sven-Goran Eriksson remains the favourite to succeed Roy Hodgson but his salary demands are posing a problem.
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Hitzfeld, who guided Switzerland to a shock 1-0 World Cup win over champions Spain before they were eliminated at the group stage, has emerged as a serious alternative to Eriksson.
He has met with Fulham chief executive Alistair Mackintosh and indicated that he would be willing to work in the Premier League for the first time in a glittering managerial career.
Hitzfeld, 61, is one of only three managers, along with Ernst Happel and Jose Mourinho, to win the Champions League with two different clubs, and he has also won nine league titles with Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Grasshopper Club Zurich.
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"Hitzfeld possesses a winning mentality and manages to pass it over to his players, but knows only too well that the secret is not avoiding losses, but managing to survive disappointments and come back stronger than ever."
Although Hitzfeld has said he will honour his contract with Switzerland until 2012, the lure of working in the Premier League could prove attractive for the fluent English speaker, who is also a good friend of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Fulham are confident they will have the new manager in place by the time they fly to Sweden for a training camp next Monday.
Alan Curbishley, Mark Hughes, Tony Mowbray and Glenn Hoddle are believed to be out of the running, as are inexperienced duo Lee Clark and Roberto Di Matteo.
Fulham initially wanted a training-ground style coach in the mould of ex-boss Hodgson so as not to disrupt the established coaching structure at Craven Cottage, but the candidates fell short of the required standard.
Now the preference is for a senior figurehead such as Eriksson or Hitzfeld working alongside a young British coach with cutting-edge training methods who can be groomed as the successor. Doncaster Rovers manager Sean O’Driscoll and former Fulham player John Collins, who had a six-month spell as boss of Belgian side Charleroi last year, are among the candidates mentioned at board level.
Negotiations with Eriksson, who has stepped down as Ivory Coast manager, have stalled on his salary expectations.
The former England boss is understood to want considerably more than the £1.5 million basic salary on offer at Craven Cottage, although there would be bonuses for keeping the club in the Premier League and qualifying for Europe.