SFA to open talks with Michael O’Neill as deal agreed with Irish FA

The SFA want to make Michael O'Neill the highest-paid manager in their history. Picture: PA.
The SFA want to make Michael O'Neill the highest-paid manager in their history. Picture: PA.
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Talks between the Scottish Football Association and top target Michael O’Neill are 
set to take place after the governing body agreed compensation for the Northern Ireland boss.

The breakthrough in the SFA’s bid to make O’Neill the successor to Gordon Strachan as Scotland manager came last night when it reached a deal with its Belfast counterpart the Irish FA.

That will now allow the SFA to open talks over personal terms with their No 1 target to fill the vacancy created by Strachan’s departure three months ago.

There is no guarantee that O’Neill, pictured, will agree to leave his post but the development represents a significant step forward in what has at times felt like a tortuous process.

O’Neill now finds himself in the midst of a tug of war between the two associations, with the Irish FA desperate to hang on to the man who ended their long absence from the finals of a major tournament.

That is exactly why SFA chief executive Stewart Regan wants to lure the 48-year-old to Hampden. It has been 20 years since Scotland qualified for the World Cup finals and the need to be at Euro 2020 is made even more acute by the fact that Glasgow is one of the host cities.

O’Neill has done remarkable things with the modest Northern Ireland squad, qualifying as group winners for Euro 2016, then reaching the last 16 at the finals.

They also reached the World Cup play-offs last year, where they lost 1-0 on aggregate to Switzerland after being the victims of a poor refereeing decision over a handball for the decisive penalty.

Scotland are prepared to make O’Neill the highest paid manager in their history but the offer is still likely to be dwarfed by Northern Ireland who have already tabled a six-year deal worth a reported £750,000 per annum.

The SFA offer is thought to be for four years and worth around £500,000 per annum but would include significant bonuses for qualification.

Edinburgh-based O’Neill has kept his cards close to his chest but Hampden chiefs are hopeful he will see the Scottish job as a fresh challenge.

The draw for the Uefa Nations League will take place in Lausanne on 24 January and O’Neill is due to be there with Northern Ireland but the SFA hope to persuade him to jump ship before then.