Belfast Telegraph

O'Neill: I'll sign four-year IFA deal - but consider club offers

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has stated he will sign a new four-year contract with the Irish FA, but has admitted he will consider any club offers that come his way after Euro 2016.

O'Neill has built up an outstanding reputation over the last 18 months, inspiring Northern Ireland to qualify for the country's first European Championship finals.

That has led to club chairmen and owners across England and Scotland talking about his abilities and management potential, with Celtic, where current boss Ronny Delia is under pressure, among those keeping a close eye on the 46-year-old.

After next year's tournament in France, should Northern Ireland perform well, O'Neill will be even hotter property.

By then as the Belfast Telegraph revealed in October, O'Neill will be under contract to the IFA for four more years.

In November this newspaper outlined how O'Neill's new deal would have clauses in it allowing him to talk to interested clubs and providing hefty compensation to the IFA if he decides to move on.

O'Neill has now confirmed that he will agree a four-year deal in the new year and that there will be stipulations written into the terms to benefit both parties.

Speaking about the contract, he said: "We're well down the line. Discussions have been very positive to date. I don't envisage everything being signed and sealed before Christmas but we haven't hit any stumbling blocks yet. I'd imagine it'll come to a conclusion some time in the new year.

"I'm positive about it. With any contract, it's a long-term commitment, it has to be right.

"It's not a two-year deal, it will be a four-year deal. It has to be right for me first of all, and for the Association as well. It's just about making sure that both parties get what they want out of it and making sure that there's protection on both sides is key.

"As I've said all along, this is a case of trying to see value for me and look at progressing the team. That's why I see it as a four-year job.

"I don't want to talk about transition and changing the team before we've even played in the Euro finals. I'd rather play in the finals, see what happens, and see where we are at that point.

 "But going forward into the next World Cup group, I think this squad has got stronger as this campaign has gone on, but I still think there's room for progression as well."

O'Neill is relishing the prospect of taking Northern Ireland to the Euro finals, but quizzed by the Belfast Telegraph on what he would do if clubs came calling following the tournament, the former Shamrock Rovers boss said: "You have to just play it by ear. It's very much driven by who wants you, and the structure of that opportunity.

"It's not just a case of 'There's a club job, there's the salary, go and take it'. It's more about 'What's the stability of the club? What's the structure of the club? What's the chances of you having some level of success at the club?' There are many factors that often a manager is not in control of.

"While I would look at those opportunities if and when they came along, they're not something that I'm actively seeking.

"I'm not out there saying to an agent 'You need to get me a club job now'. If it comes along and presents itself, I would evaluate it. The positive side of that for the IFA is that they would be compensated for that. We'll look at that if and when it happens."

Belfast Telegraph