Beijing - Manuel Pellegrini, favourite to succeed David Moyes at West Ham, appeared closer to a return to the Premier League on Saturday after his Chinese club released him.
The Chilean manager, who led Manchester City to the title in 2014, has been heavily linked with the Hammers job, as the London club tries to reassure supporters with a "high-calibre" appointment following a turbulent season.
Pellegrini joined Chinese Super League club Hebei China Fortune in 2016 after he was replaced at City by Pep Guardiola.
"We feel thankful for Pellegrini's contribution to our club, and wish him good luck in the future," Hebei said in a statement posted on Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media platform.
West Ham finished 13th in the Premier League after a slump early in the season saw them drop into the relegation zone.
Slaven Bilic was sacked in November and replaced by Moyes, who helped them avoid the drop but still departed at the end of the campaign.
"I would like to reassure our supporters that we have left no stone unturned in selecting the individual we believe is the right man to take West Ham United forward," joint chairman David Sullivan had said in a statement on Thursday.
Despite top-flight survival, West Ham struggled with problems on and off the pitch throughout the 2017/18 season.
Discontent among supporters had been bubbling for months over the team's performance and teething problems at the London Stadium - the club's home since 2016.
Anger spilled over in March when fans invaded the pitch during a home match, hurling missiles at the club's owners and chanting "sack the board".