The Scottish FA (SFA) has agreed to pay Michael O’Neill’s £500,000 release clause and will now begin formal talks with the Northern Ireland boss, Sky sources understand.
The Irish Football Association’s terms relating to O’Neill’s notice period within his contract have now been met, allowing the SFA to speak to him directly, subject to legal checks and due diligence by the SFA.
The IFA had initially given O’Neill permission to speak to Scotland on November 17 at a board meeting, subject to the SFA agreeing to pay release clause.
The SFA is expected to table a four-year contract offer to O’Neill which will see him become the best-paid manager in Scotland’s history.
The contract will almost certainly include a bonus for ending Scotland’s major finals wait, which stretches back to 1998.
O’Neill is thought to be keen to listen to any interested parties before making a decision on his future. The Irish FA has offered him a new deal to 2024 worth £750,000 a year.
He turned down the Sunderland job before Chris Coleman’s appointment on Wearside and West Brom also agreed to pay his release clause before opting for a manager with Premier League experience in Alan Pardew.
Under O’Neill, Northern Ireland qualified for Euro 2016 – their first European Championship – where they progressed to the round-of-16 stage of the competition.