Stoke are preparing a bumper financial package in an effort to tempt Michael O’Neill to leave his job with Northern Ireland and take over as their manager.
The Irish Football Association said on Thursday it had received an approach from Stoke for O’Neill.
Assuming O’Neill is willing to take on the challenge of trying to lift Stoke from the bottom of the Championship, the success of the approach is likely hinge on finances.
O’Neill’s buyout clause is believed to be around £1m, although the IFA may be open to negotiation. The 50-year-old will also not come cheap because he has a contract to 2024 worth £800,000 a year. It is understood Stoke are willing to offer him up to £1.5m per season.
O’Neill was close to getting the Middlesbrough job last summer but talks broke down and Jonathan Woodgate was appointed.
Stoke sacked Nathan Jones last week and failed in an attempt to bring in Alex Neil from Preston North End, prompting them to target O’Neill.
“The Irish Football Association has been approached by EFL Championship club Stoke City who are seeking permission to speak to Michael O’Neill about their vacant manager’s position,” the IFA said.
The approach has come at an awkward time for O’Neill and the IFA, with Northern Ireland facing key Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Netherlands a week on Saturday and Germany the following Tuesday.
O’Neill has been in charge of Northern Ireland since 2012 and guided them to their first major tournament in 30 years when qualifying for Euro 2016. He turned down the chance to become Scotland’s manager last year.
The Aberdeen manager, Derek McInnes, has also been linked with the vacancy at Stoke but O’Neill is the preferred target.