The Croatian Football Association has reacted angrily to West Ham's reported interest in Slaven Bilic with President Vlatko Markovic labelling their pursuit as 'another dirty trick by the English'.
Bilic, who spent one season at Upton Park as a player, emerged as an early favourite to replace Alan Curbishley after he resigned last week although the Croatia coach has insisted he has no intention of walking away from the national job.
It has been suggested that West Ham are seeking talks with Bilic this week.
President Vlatko Markovic, quoted in the Daily Mirror, said: 'This is another dirty trick by the English. They obviously want to cause trouble for us before we play. It's typical of the sleaze in English football. For the story about West Ham wanting Bilic to come out now is very poor.
'We are very suspicious and unhappy as it is not the first time something like this has happened with England.'
Secretary General Zorslav Srebic added: 'Bilic has a deal with us and I want him to fulfil his work until we qualify for the World Cup in 2010.
'We have not authorised West Ham to speak to him. They say there has not been contact but if that happens they will be breaking the law and we will take action against them. Croatia is not inferior to an English club.'
Bilic is thought to be one of four names on the Hammers' shortlist, with Gianfranco Zola, Roberto Donnadoni and Michael Laudrup the other names interesting the board.
Former Chelsea star Zola, now joint coach of Italy Under-21s, is reported to have impressed greatly in his two interviews while ex-Italy coach Donnadoni is still in the frame. Laudrup is due to be interviewed on Monday.
Bilic, quoted in The Sun, again repeated his desire to lead Croatia to the 2010 World Cup: 'I'm not going anywhere. Any club from England is a great opportunity. Not for money, honestly, for me it's about ambition. It's about working in England, a country you know I adore.
'But it's like, no. West Ham is my club, I have feelings for them but I won't go. And I won't go to Newcastle.
'My answer is clear. No, I wouldn't go as things stand. I had many offers in the period between our win at Wembley last November until I signed a new deal in May. I decided to stay. Whether that's good for me only God knows.'
West Ham are in the process of interviewing candidates on their shortlist and are keen to speak to Bilic soon.