Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland boss O'Neill lands £500k a year deal - and IFA will net £750k if he takes club job

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill will be handed a £500,000 per year reward for taking the country to the Euro 2016 finals.

The Belfast Telegraph can exclusively reveal that when O'Neill signs his new four-year deal with the Irish Football Association, it will be worth a whopping £2million to the history-making boss.

Members of the IFA Executive Board have agreed that on the back of his stunning achievements, O'Neill deserves to become the highest paid Northern Ireland manager in history.

And as first revealed in this newspaper back in October, the powers that be are breaking with tradition by giving O'Neill the security of a four-year deal rather than the normal two-year extension.

The £2million contract is currently in the hands of legal teams with an announcement from the IFA on the deal expected in the near future.

Regarding the £500,000 per year salary, an IFA source said: "It was a unanimous decision to pay that figure."

While O'Neill, on an annual salary of £275,000 under his current terms, is satisfied with the package, the IFA feel content too having inserted a key compensation clause into the contract should the 46-year-old from Ballymena move into club management after the Euro 2016 finals.

By masterminding the team's qualification, with Northern Ireland topping their group in the process, there has been a surge of interest in the former Shamrock Rovers boss from club chairmen in England, Scotland and further afield.

There is no way O'Neill will leave Northern Ireland before the European Championships, but already he is among a list of candidates for the Celtic manager's job with current boss Ronny Deila under severe pressure at Parkhead.

O'Neill has built up an outstanding reputation in the game and if his Northern Ireland team perform well in France, where they will play Poland, Ukraine and Germany in the group stages, the ex-Newcastle United star will become one of the hottest properties in football.

The IFA are well aware of that and with O'Neill's blessing have included a clause in his new deal, originally outlined in this newspaper in November, which will provide the Association with hefty compensation should he leave for a club job.

It is understood that if a club comes in for O'Neill, the IFA would be able to seek compensation for the next 18 months of his new deal which amounts to £750,000.

Northern Ireland fans would not begrudge O'Neill a shot at big time club management, but the man himself won't make any rash decisions, whatever offers land on his table.

He has spoken previously about the challenge of managing in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and may opt to stay in the international hotseat regardless of who is chasing him after France.

Right now he is relishing the prospect of taking Northern Ireland to the European Championships for the first time in history.

It will also be the first time a side from this country has competed at a major tournament since the 1986 World Cup finals in Mexico when the legendary Billy Bingham was the boss.

O'Neill's new deal will be more than 10 times the £45,000 per year that Bingham was reputed to be earning at the end of his second spell as Northern Ireland boss, yet it will only be a £25,000 increase on the £475,000 per year his predecessor Nigel Worthington finished with in 2011.

Lawrie Sanchez was the first Northern Ireland boss to break through the six figure barrier - he was on £125,000 per year when he left for Fulham in 2007. Worthington was appointed for the remainder of the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, taking home £180,000 for six games at £30,000 per match.

Despite not being viewed as a success by Northern Ireland fans, he ended up with just shy of half a million quid each year. Given those figures, many supporters will think O'Neill's new £500,000 salary will represent a bargain.

Belfast Telegraph