South African businessman Jonathan Cleland is confident he can persuade Kevin Keegan to return as Newcastle manager if his consortium is successful in buying the club.
The 46-year-old Scotland-based tycoon on Friday confirmed he held talks with Keegan in Manchester on Monday evening, and was hugely impressed with him. Cleland revealed he is "80% confident" of being able to push through a deal, but admitted he is not yet in a position to make any promises.
He told the city's evening newspaper, the Evening Chronicle: "My meeting with Kevin went very well. I am hugely impressed with him and I got the sense there was good chemistry between us and there is a strong mutual interest in working together."
He added: "He is our preferred option, but we cannot make any concrete decisions on the managerial position until negotiations on our planned takeover are further advanced. I think he understands and supports our concept of developing the club organically."
Cleland's public statement confirms speculation over the last week or so that Keegan could make a sensational return to St James' Park following his resignation last month.
However, there is still a long way to go until the South African consortium - or indeed any other potential buyer - can appoint a manager.
Cleland and his partners claim to have lodged a bid for the club with investment bankers Seymour Pierce, who have been appointed by owner Mike Ashley to sell it.
They and other interested parties have been asked to sign a confidentiality clause, although it is understood their offer is in the region of £300million.
The South Africans and a Nigerian consortium have emerged as the front-runners, in public at least, over the last week or so, and Cleland is hopeful of making a breakthrough.
He said: "I would say we are at least 80% confident of this working. We are cautiously optimistic, but we are not arrogant. I am a businessman who happens to be a supporter, and the club and the fans deserve better and we are hoping to achieve that."
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