Quique Sanchez Flores on brink of becoming new Stoke manager

Stoke are closing in on their next manager after offering Quique Sanchez Flores a five-year deal to replace Mark Hughes.

The Espanyol boss refused to discuss a potential move back to the Premier League after leading his side into the Copa del Rey quarter-finals on Thursday night.

But Sportsmail understands that Flores could be announced within the next 24 hours and he is expected to attend Monday’s game against Manchester United.

It is unclear whether the Spaniard will pick the team at Old Trafford, with first-team coach Eddie Niedzwiecki lined up to take charge against Jose Mourinho’s men.

Asked about a move to the bet365 stadium on Thursday night, Flores said: ‘I’m not going to talk about me on such an important day for Espanyol.

‘It’s a day for Espanyol, for the club, for the players, it’s a day to celebrate for having qualified for the quarters.

‘I don’t want to talk about me, but to enjoy these moments. I want to continue being happy with my profession.’

Stoke sacked Hughes last weekend after the 2-1 FA Cup loss at League Two Coventry, which followed a run of seven losses in 10 Premier League games.

The 18th-placed Staffordshire outfit were interested in Derby manager Gary Rowett until he signed a new contract with the Rams on Tuesday.

Flores’ one season in English football to date saw him guide Watford to a 13th-placed Premier League finish in 2015-16, with the Hornets also reaching the FA Cup semi-finals.

The 52-year-old Spaniard then took charge at Espanyol in the summer of 2016, on a three-year deal, and they finished eighth in La Liga last term.

Martin O’Neill also came under consideration for the role, but Stoke have turned to Flores ahead of the Republic of Ireland boss.

Since the departure of Hughes and his assistant Mark Bowen, Niedzwiecki has been in temporary charge at Stoke, taking training ahead of Monday’s clash with Manchester United.

Niedzwiecki has been assisted by Under 18s boss Kevin Russell, who faced the media at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

Russell said: ‘It’s been a bit difficult with a manager gone who is really well-respected in the club.

‘But as the week has gone on, we all know football – it’s just a matter now of getting on with it and trying to prepare for the new manager coming in, making sure the players are in the right frame of mind, or the game on Monday, whichever it is (that comes first).

‘Whoever comes in is coming into a fantastic football club. They will be a lucky manager.’

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