Report: Stoke awaits response from 1st-choice Flores

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MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 18: Head coach Enrique Sanchez Flores of RCD Espanyol looks on before the the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and RCD Espanyol at the Bernabeu stadium on February 18, 2017 in Madrid, Spain.
Denis Doyle / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Quique Sanchez Flores has quickly vaulted to the top of Stoke City's managerial wishlist.

Following Wednesday's report that the Potters were considering the former Watford boss as Mark Hughes' successor, BBC Sport's Juliette Ferrington now believes he has emerged as first choice for the vacancy. Stoke has apparently contacted Espanyol to express its interest.

There's yet to be a response to Stoke's inquiry from the Barcelona-based club or Flores, but that delay may be down to Espanyol taking on Levante in the Copa del Rey on Thursday.

Flores, 52, has a contract with the 14th-placed La Liga side until 2019. However, it is understood there's a release clause in the paperwork. A negative in pursuing Flores is that the aim of having a new manager in place by next Monday's trip to Manchester United may not be achieved.

Gary Rowett was the front-runner for the post until he signed a new contract with Derby County, which occupies the second automatic promotion spot in the Championship. Martin O'Neill remains in the running for the job, and could continue to work as Ireland handler even if he took the reins in Staffordshire.

Stoke is in the Premier League's relegation zone, and has been managerless since Hughes was given the boot in the wake of last Saturday's shameful FA Cup third-round exit to fourth-tier Coventry City.