HEARTS have just nine days to agree a new contract with manager Paulo Sergio or lose their exclusive option to retain him for next season.
Both parties are still talking but remain some distance apart in their negotiations, with Tynecastle officials offering the Portuguese coach considerably less in wages than he earned last season.
The Evening News has learned that the clause in Sergio’s existing deal stipulates Hearts have the right to extend his contract until June 15. Thereafter, they would be powerless to prevent the 44-year-old from joining another club.
Sergio was hoping to hear a definitive answer from Hearts yesterday regarding a possible new deal but so far he has been offered less money than he earned last season, despite guiding the club to the historic Scottish Cup final victory over Hibs. He must now wait to see if the club hierarchy return with a counter offer and he is currently at home in Portugal awaiting further developments on his future.
Hearts are eager for Sergio to continue as manager on the back of last season’s success and because of his popularity with the club’s support. He is equally keen to stay but is unlikely to accept a large pay cut and wants to know whether he will be able to recruit new players. The Hearts board are seeking to reduce costs throughout the club as owner Vladimir Romanov looks to sell his majority shareholding.
The Tynecastle squad are due to report back to Riccarton at the start of July for pre-season training and, if no solution is reached with Sergio within the next nine days, the club may have to begin seeking another coach to lead the team next season.