Vissel Kobe have put former Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal at the top of their shortlist as the ambitious J.League club seek a new coach, according to reports in Tokyo.
Kobe, who signed ex-Germany international Lukas Podolski in June, fired coach Nelsinho on Monday. The Brazilian has been in charge since 2015, but despite high hopes ahead of the current campaign, the Kansai club suffered a third consecutive defeat at the weekend to fall to 11th place in the 18-team league.
Taken over by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten in 2014, Kobe have never been one of Japanese football's traditional giants. Last year's seventh-place finish was the best in the club's history.
The Sports Hochi newspaper reported that the club have identified Van Gaal as the man to lead them forward into a first-ever AFC Champions League and then to a J.League title.
The Dutchman may have never coached outside Europe, but has an impressive resume, despite his struggles during two seasons at Man United until 2016.
He has also managed Bayern Munich, Barcelona, the Dutch national side, and led Ajax to the 1995 UEFA Champions League title. If the 66-year-old came to Japan, he would be one of the biggest coaching names in Japanese history.
Despite the arrival of Podolski in a deal worth over $5 million -- the 2014 World Cup winner has scored two goals in four league games -- Kobe are now 12 points off the top three, and a place in next year's continental competition.
"Unfortunately, I couldn't achieve what we were aiming for, but I was able to see the team grow a lot toward earning a title in football," Nelsinho said in a statement released by the club.
"But as a professional, I feel greatly responsible for not being able to live up to everyone's expectations."
Head coach Takayuki Yoshida will take temporary control of the team, who are at home to Yokohama F. Marinos in the J.League on Sunday.