Hearts want Austin MacPhee to work alongside Ian Cathro in a radical new managerial set-up at Tynecastle.
However, MacPhee, who is Northern Ireland assistant, is also wanted by the Scottish Football Association as performance director and by a Major League Soccer club in the United States.
The 37-year-old has emerged as the SFA’s preferred candidate after a series of interviews conducted earlier this month for the post vacated by Brian McClair in July.
The in-demand coach had looked set to take the Hampden job but must now decide if his future lies with Hearts, the SFA or in MLS.
The Tynecastle club are in the process of trying to replace Robbie Neilson who resigned last week to become manager of MK Dons.
Hearts have identified Newcastle United assistant Cathro as the leading candidate and the Edinburgh club are expected to make an official approach to request permission to speak to him.
MacPhee, pictured, is the No.1 choice to be Cathro’s assistant and Hearts are understood to have spoken to the Irish FA. Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill is believed to be happy to allow MacPhee to combine his Irish duties with a role at Hearts.
The potential offered by the Cathro-MacPhee combination will be exciting for Hearts fans.
Both men have forged reputations as innovative coaches despite neither having a professional playing career to speak of.
Cathro has gone from setting up his own football school in his native Dundee to working in the top flight in Spain and Portugal and on to Newcastle. He is now poised, at 30, to become the youngest top-flight manager in Scotland.
MacPhee, from Cupar, is an English and psychology graduate. He left St Mirren’s coaching staff in 2014 and was recruited by the Mexican Football Federation to provide video analysis at the World Cup in Brazil. He was then part of O’Neill’s staff as Northern Ireland qualified for Euro 2016 as group winners, then reached the second stage in France.