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."
Copyright (c) PA Sport 2008, All Rights Reserved.
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: http://gms.to/writeforgms