Brendan Rodgers is close to sealing a deal to become the new Liverpool manager.
Swansea boss Rodgers is expected to hold talks with Reds’ co-owner John W Henry, and could be announced by the end of the week.
In a further twist, Wigan gaffer Roberto Martinez, who had been favourite for the Anfield post, is set to move to Aston Villa.
Henry has been impressed by the job Rodgers has done at Swansea, winning promotion to the Premier league and surviving comfortably while preaching attractive football, and feels the 39-year-old fits his template as a young, rising manager.
Rodgers spent Tuesday afternoon locked in talks with Swans chairman Huw Jenkins, who is desperately fighting to hang on to the Ulsterman, who watched Wales play their friendly international against Mexico in New York at the weekend.
Initially, Rodgers ruled himself out of the running for the Liverpool job because he did not want to be part of a beauty contest as Henry compiled a long list of candidates.
But with Henry arriving in England this week from his Boston base, the Reds are now ready to speak to Rodgers on his terms – although Swansea insist they have had no approach yet from their Premier League rivals – and hope for a joint unveiling of him and Louis van Gaal within days.
Rodgers earned his reputation as a coach under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, but went on to become a manager in his own right at Watford and then Reading.
He was being lined-up by Tottenham as a potential replacement for Harry Redknapp, if he had been wanted by the FA as England manager.
But now Rodgers is set to take the reins at Anfield after Henry cooled his interest in Martinez.
Although the American was impressed by the Wigan boss when they met in Miami on Thursday, the Spaniard has misgivings about working under a high-profile director of football such as Van Gaal.
Martinez, who was greeted by a battery of photographers at Manchester Airport when he returned from his holiday in Barbados on Tuesday, is wary of interference from above and likes to be in charge of all football matters.
Latics chairman Dave Whelan is heartened to hear that Rodgers is now favourite and said: “I hope they sign him, but I have not heard from my manager yet.”
Whelan is fighting hard to hang on to Martinez, but is set to lose him anyway – to another American – Villa chairman Randy Lerner.
Eager Lerner hopes to resolve the saga on Wednesday, after being informed by Martinez’s representatives that he will consider the job.
Ironically, Martinez turned down the Villa job last summer in favour of staying for another season with the Latics, but he is now believed to be open to succeeding Alex McLeish.
Villa’s search for a new manager is now in its third week.
Molde boss and Manchester United legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has rejected the chance to take over at Villa Park, but Martinez has always been Lerner’s top target and the American is on a mission to make an appointment by the weekend.
Villa are prepared to promise their new man significant funds for signings, in what will represent a drastic change in policy from Lerner.
McLeish was instructed to lower a mammoth wage-bill and was expecting a sell-to-buy policy this summer, if he had survived the axe.
By David Anderson