Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill has turned down an approach to become Sunderland's new manager, the Echo understands.
The Black Cats had earmarked O'Neill as one of their key targets for the vacant role at the Stadium of Light.
LIVE: Chris Coleman emerges as shock contender
However, the 48-year-old looks set to stay in international football, with Northern Ireland preparing a new contract offer in a bid to ward off the advances of Scotland and USA.
Sunderland chief executive Martin Bain had been impressed by O'Neill's work with the Irish, who he led to Euro 2016 and to the verge of the 2018 World Cup.
The Black Cats’ desire to sound out the highly-rated O’Neill has been one of the reasons for the protracted search that has now entered a third week, and they may still try to persuade him again to come to Wearside.
The Echo understands that contact was made between intermediaries and O'Neill's representatives earlier this week after Northern Ireland lost their play-off against Switzerland, and provisional discussions over the role took place.
Paul Heckingbottom remains the frontrunner for the job, but he revealed today he's had no approach from Sunderland.