Of the 16 Iranian league teams, Esteghlal is the only side yet to know its head coach for next season.
The ongoing saga of the Tehran-based Blues’ managerial role entered a new phase last Wednesday after CEO Ahmad Sa’adatmand was removed from his job by the club’s board of directors.
Hours before his dismissal, Sa’adatmand had announced that Esteghlal had reached an agreement with former Werder Bremen and Hertha Berlin manager Alexander Nouri over the team’s vacant job.
Sports newspaper Iran Varzeshi on Saturday wrote that Nekounam – a former midfielder of the Blues – is the top candidate to replace caretaker manager Majid Namjoo Motlaq, who steered his team to a last-16 finish at the AFC Champions League in Qatar.
According to the paper, Esteghlal will have to activate the manager’s release clause – reportedly some $85,000 – before signing the 39-year-old Iranian.
Nekounam stole the headlines after leading Foolad to the third spot in the Iranian league last season, securing a place for the southern Iranian club in the next edition of the Asian elite club competition.
However, Foolad CEO Saeid Azari ruled out any rumors regarding Nekounam’s departure on Saturday, insisting that the ex-Iran skipper will stay with Foolad until the end of next league campaign.
Majidi, meanwhile, is tipped to resume his job, according to Mehr News Agency.
He stepped down from his role in September following a 3-2 defeat against Tractor in the Hazfi Cup final.
He was heavily critical of Sa’adatmand at the time, slamming his decision to travel to Italy to negotiate a contract with Majidi’s Italian predecessor Andrea Stramaccioni on the eve of the Hazfi Cup semifinal tie against archrival Persepolis in late August – which the Blues won in the shootouts.
Majidi had a decent record during his seven-month spell at Esteghlal, which finished as runner-up in the league.