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Revealed: The wage rise that Michael O'Neill has been offered to sign new six-year deal as Northern Ireland manager


By Steven Beacom

The Irish FA have offered Michael O'Neill a new six-year contract in the hope that he will stick around and lead the Northern Ireland side to the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar and beyond.

It's the latest twist in a tale surrounding the future of the most successful Northern Ireland boss since Billy Bingham.

O'Neill has become one of the most talked about figures in football since his team just missed out on a place in next year's World Cup in Russia, losing in controversial circumstances to Switzerland in a play-off.

There has been interest in the 48-year-old before from Celtic, Leicester and Norwich, but it has never been greater than it is now for the man who took his home country to the 2016 Euro finals, 30 years on from Northern Ireland's last major tournament when Bingham was in charge.

Scotland are desperate for O'Neill to work his magic with them, the USA are keeping an eye on developments and West Bromwich Albion admire his inspirational efforts at international level. Before they appointed Chris Coleman as boss, Sunderland were keen until O'Neill said he wasn't interested.

Come December, when there will be further managerial vacancies, O'Neill will be linked to even more posts should his future remain uncertain.

The IFA want him to stay with them and to that end have offered O'Neill a four-year extension to his existing deal which was signed in March 2016.

O'Neill's current contract is worth £500,000 per year and runs until 2020.

There were suggestions yesterday that the IFA were willing to offer him £1 million a year, but that figure has been laughed off by key figures in the organisation.

The Belfast Telegraph has learned that the IFA will pay O'Neill between £600,000 and £700,000 per year in the proposed new agreement, which will include bonus packages for qualifying for major tournaments.

O'Neill has led Northern Ireland in three campaigns, and if he signs the deal now on the table, he would be lined up for three more, the 2020 and 2024 Euros and the 2022 World Cup.

The IFA are well aware that they can't compete with the money on offer to become a Premier League boss, but they believe the new offer will be superior to anything Scotland can come up with.

The SFA are facing embarrassment if they fail to land Edinburgh-based O'Neill because they put all their eggs in his basket.

Should he opt to join the Scots, they will have to pay the IFA around £500,000 in compensation, while if he ends up in the Premier League, the IFA will receive £750,000 as stipulated in the present deal.

While aware that there would be interest in O'Neill after the play-offs, the IFA made the decision about extending O'Neill's contract before the final whistle in Basel and prior to Scotland seeking and receiving permission to speak to the Northern Ireland supremo.

Those talks have been put on hold due to O'Neill's personal circumstances with his mother Patricia passing away on Sunday after a long illness.

In recent days O'Neill, who was very close to his mum, has been more concerned with helping his family come to terms with the loss than thinking about the next stage of his football career. Mrs O'Neill's funeral took place this morning in Ballymena.

If O'Neill departs, two frontrunners to replace him will be Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson , who this week is preparing for Sunday's Scottish League Cup final at Hampden against Celtic, and St Johnstone's Tommy Wright.

On the new contract offer from the IFA for his friend O'Neill, Robinson said: "A six-year contract anywhere in football is great.

"In terms of what Michael O'Neill has done for Northern Ireland and staying with Northern Ireland, it would be a tremendous coup if they managed to do it. Credit to the IFA for trying to do that.

"If Michael stays, it keeps the positivity going because he has simply united the country together and given real belief to the country.

"Hopefully he will be enticed by that, but I can't speak for Michael. He has earned the right to look at his options and I don't think anyone would begrudge him that."

Belfast Telegraph

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