West Bromwich Albion have made Valérien Ismaël their No 1 managerial target. Barnsley, his current employer, are yet to receive a formal approach but the Baggies could trigger a release clause in his contract thought to be worth around £2m.
A move to appoint Chris Wilder was vetoed by the Chinese owner Guochuan Lai, leading to the departure of sporting director Luke Dowling last week. A section of the West Brom board had been keen on David Wagner and the Lincoln City manager Michael Appleton, the former Albion Under-23s coach previously of interest to Sheffield United. Wagner has since taken charge of Young Boys in Switzerland.
Ismaël, who has two years remaining on his current deal at Oakwell, took over at Barnsley in October, with the club in the Championship relegation zone but guided them to fifth after overseeing an extraordinary turnaround. The 45-year-old former Bayern Munich defender previously managed Wolfsburg and the Austrian outfit Lask, guiding them to the Europa League last 16 last season, where they lost to Manchester United.
The Frenchman has not hidden his desire to work at the highest level, however, and was shortlisted by Crystal Palace following Roy Hodgson’s exit.
Meanwhile Nottingham Forest are keen to appoint the Barnsley chief executive Dane Murphy to the same role. Murphy has overseen the club’s data-driven model. The captain, Alex Mowatt, is out of contract at the end of this month and has been tracked by a number of Championship rivals.