Scotland ready to spark international tug-of-war with move for Michael O'Neill
Michael O'Neill's managerial future is set to take a new twist with Scottish Football Association bigwigs ready to meet Irish FA terms that will allow them to speak to the Northern Ireland manager.
The SFA are scheduled to hold a Board meeting today when Chief Executive Stewart Regan will urge his colleagues to agree to paying a £500,000 compensation clause to the IFA in order to speak to O'Neill, who has become one of the most inspirational figures in Northern Ireland sport.
The IFA, who have offered O'Neill a new six-year deal in the hope that he will stay, are willing to let their manager talk to interested parties if they adhere to the stipulations in his current contract which runs until 2020.
Scotland are desperate to land the 48-year-old who guided Northern Ireland to the Euro 2016 finals and to the brink of World Cup qualification for next year's tournament in Russia, with Regan firmly believing that O'Neill is the man to take the Scots back to the big time - the 1998 World Cup was the last time the Tartan Army enjoyed those glory days.
To have any chance of outlining their vision to O'Neill, the SFA know they must consent to paying the full compensation package should they prove successful in luring the Northern Ireland boss to join them.
The IFA will not negotiate on this issue and have told their Scottish counterparts as much.
An international tug-of-war is on the horizon with the IFA growing increasingly confident that they can win it.
Last month, Windsor Park chiefs decided to offer O’Neill a new six-year contract which would see him lead the team in the 2020 and 2024 European Championship qualifiers and the 2022 World Cup campaign.
O’Neill is currently on £500,000 per year, but it is understood that the new deal would be in the region of £700,000 per year. The IFA are determined to show O’Neill how much he means to them and the country, both in terms of finance and stability with Scotland likely to offer him a substantial salary on a similar scale but with a four-year agreement.
For his part, O’Neill has been consistent throughout his time with Northern Ireland in that he would be willing to talk to those keen on snapping him up, but that would not automatically mean he would leave his present position.
As canny in the boardroom as he is in the dressing room, O’Neill will weigh up all his options before deciding what is best for him and his family, and that includes any club jobs that come his way.
In the past, Celtic, Leicester City and Norwich City have all expressed an interest. Sunderland were keen recently but O’Neill was not, while West Brom went for Alan Pardew after looking at the former Newcastle United star, who is highly respected amongst other managers across Europe for what he has achieved with Northern Ireland.
Aberdeen may soon have a vacancy with Rangers chasing their boss Derek McInnes.
The Dons would love a boss of O’Neill’s standing, but it would be a major shock if he ended up at Pittodrie.