John Collins, who resigned in 2007 after bringing the League Cup to Easter Road, had been linked with a return to Leith but he has instead decided to become the assistant to new Celtic manager Ronny Deila, boosting Tapia’s prospects.
The 54-year-old Spaniard took newly-promoted Malaga to eighth place in La Liga in 2009. That success attracted offers from Newcastle United and QPR but he rejected them to take over at Real Betis. However, his time there – and a subsequent spell with Tenerife – did not work out and he returned to Malaga as sporting director alongside Pellegrini in 2012, when the pair guided the cash-strapped club to a top-six finish.
Tapia wants a return to management, however, and would jump at the chance of taking Hibs out of the Championship next season. Tapia did not get an interview in November, when Terry Butcher replaced Pat Fenlon. He also tried for the vacancy Butcher left at Inverness, only to lose out to John Hughes.
“I have made Hibernian aware of Antonio’s interest and I hope to hear from them soon,” said Tapia’s agent, Jose Luis Martinez Hens. “Obviously, he has not worked in Scotland before but, if he got the job, Antonio would like to take Kenny Shiels, the former Kilmarnock manager, with him as his assistant. Antonio believes in playing attractive, attacking football and in developing young players. He knows that Kenny shares his philosophy and that his knowledge of the Scottish game would also be helpful.”
Shiels was unavailable for comment.
Hibs have made no contact with Motherwell regarding manager Stuart McCall despite the Fir Park manager continuing to be listed among the favourites for the vacancy. A wide array of names have been linked with the post following the dismissal of Butcher last week, but the odds against Ian Murray, Tony Mowbray, Jonathan Hill and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink have lengthened after an initial flurry of interest.
McCall, however, remains 7-4 second-favourite with some bookmakers for the position behind Mowbray’s former No 2 Mark Venus, with his name refusing to go away after spending a successful four years working with new Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster at Motherwell. Despite this, a source at the North Lanarkshire outfit has confirmed that there has been no official approach for McCall – nor do they expect one in the coming days. There is also substantial doubt regarding whether McCall would be interested in dropping down a division to take charge of the Hibees after establishing himself as one of the brightest coaches in Scotland with consecutive second-place finishes in the top flight.
Meanwhile, Dempster was expected to return to Scotland last night after a brief stay south of the border, with the Edinburgh club subsequently expected to step up their search for Butcher’s replacement in the coming days.
Prior to sacking the former England captain, Hibs were scheduled to return for pre-season next Monday. It is unclear whether that date has been altered due to Butcher’s dismissal, but it is likely Dempster and new head of football operations George Craig will look to make an appointment in time for the players’ return.