Milan (AFP) – The Chinese owners of Inter Milan have flown in to choose a successor to Frank de Boer after the Dutch coach’s unceremonious sacking earlier in the week.

Inter face Southampton in a must-win Europa League clash later Thursday when the club’s youth team coach, Stefano Vecchi, will take over on an interim basis.

But with Inter languishing in 12th place in the league and 13 points behind leaders Juventus, the Suning group — which has owned the Serie A giants since the start of the season — is desperate to quickly make a permanent appointment.

According to reports former Lazio coach Stefano Pioli leads the race to succeed de Boer, who was sacked on Tuesday  following a 1-0 defeat at Sampdoria, Inter’s fifth loss in 11 outings.

But Inter’s owners will consider other options in what Gazzetta dello Sport said was “a crucial day of talks” involving Steven Zhang, son of club owner Jindong Zhang, and fellow board member Ren Jun. 

Francesco Guidolin is reportedly being considered for the job despite his recent sacking by Premier League side Swansea after a poor start to their season.

He is reportedly joined on the list by Guus Hiddink, Marcelino Garcia Toral — most recently of Villarreal — and the Portuguese Vitor Pereira, last seen at Fenerbahce.

Former Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas was also mentioned as a possible candidate although according to reports he could be on his way to Chinese football.