Belfast Telegraph

Irish FA to consider offering an improved deal to persuade O'Neill to stay


By Paul Ferguson

The Irish Football Association are ready to increase Michael O’Neill’s lucrative salary and extend his contract to head off rival bids for his services.

O’Neill is a manager in demand with Scotland and Sunderland keen on him, fresh from leading his country to the brink of next summer’s World Cup finals before their unfortunate elimination by Switzerland on Sunday night at the play-off stage.

O’Neill’s odds for the Rangers position also dropped dramatically yesterday.

In response, determined Irish FA chiefs have made it clear they are ready to battle hard for a supremo who has rejuvenated Northern Ireland international football in the last four years and came within a whisker of taking the men in green to their first World Cup in 31 years, which would have resulted in historic back-to-back major finals.

O’Neill’s current Irish FA salary is half a million pounds a year and he still has two years to run on a four year deal.

But the Belfast Telegraph understands Windsor Park bosses are seriously contemplating offering 48 year-old O’Neill an extended and improved contract.

This would see O’Neill receive a significant pay rise and a further two years on his contract, keeping him on board until 2021.

Contrary to reports yesterday, contract negotiations have not yet started. However, IFA chiefs are prepared to move quickly should either Scotland or Sunderland approach chief executive Patrick Nelson to request permission to speak with the Ballymena man.

O’Neill has developed a unique bond with his limited playing staff, giving them the belief to compete and succeed.

Given what he has achieved, the Irish FA would not allow their manager to leave without a fight.

However, they are also aware that O’Neill is extremely ambitious and would not stand in his way if he opted to leave the Windsor Park hotseat — provided his chosen club or national association paid the relevant compensation.

Under the terms of his contract, the Irish FA have a £750,000 buyout if O’Neill joins a Premier League outfit while Championship clubs or a rival national association would be forced to fork out £500,000.

The Scottish FA, it is believed, would be willing to offer a salary of £1million a year, which would be a considerable hike on O’Neill’s current take-home pay, but Sunderland, in their current financial predicament, would be unable to come close to that.

Northern Ireland’s top players Jonny Evans and Steven Davis believe it is crucial that O’Neill remains in charge of his country to safeguard the team continuing to be a force.

Those in power at the Irish FA will heed that advice and offer O’Neill a justified pay rise to try and entice him to stay.

Belfast Telegraph

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