Football: Gullit set for pounds 3.2m contract

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The Independent Online
THE NEWCASTLE manager, Ruud Gullit, is to be offered a lucrative new contract as the club attempt to secure his future on Tyneside.

The Dutchman is rumoured to be poised to become the highest-paid manager in the country within a fortnight if he signs a new two-year deal which will be worth pounds 3.2m. That would eclipse the pounds 1.5m a year Manchester United will pay Sir Alex Ferguson over the next three years, although it is share options that are said to have taken Gullit's package past that of the Old Trafford manager.

Gullit has yet to sign a contract after replacing Kenny Dalglish at St James' Park last August, although he has always insisted that it was only a matter of time. It is understood that he is preparing to enter further negotiations which could extend his stay past 2001 amid rumours that the American cable giant NTL are finally to go ahead with their proposed takeover of the club, which could mean a multi- million pound transfer kitty.

Newcastle declined to confirm or deny the figures yesterday, although it is no secret that talks have been ongoing for some time. "We never comment on details of the individual contracts of either managers or players," a spokesman said.

NTL already has a 6.3 per cent holding in Newcastle and had an option to purchase the remaining 50.7 per cent of Cameron Hall Developments' stake before the BSkyB bid for Manchester United was referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

Gullit's decision to put pen to paper would come as a major boost to the club, which last week saw striker Alan Shearer effectively commit the rest of his playing days to Newcastle and hint that a management role afterwards is more than a possibility. It would also end a period of nervous speculation over Newcastle's immediate future after a rocky two and a half years in which the heady days of Premiership title contention under Kevin Keegan have become a distant memory.

Gullit has always maintained that he cannot be judged until he has had a pre-season with his own players, and with a new contract on the table and transfer cash having been spent during the summer, the fans will now be looking for some return on their club's investment.