Former Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is preparing a formal £50m offer to buy Derby County.

His bid is  believed to be the largest received so far by Derby’s administrators, Quantuma.

On Christmas Eve, Quantuma announced that a preferred bidder was “imminent”.

If his bid is successful it would be a swift return to football Ashley, who sold Newcastle United in October last year ,  ending his 14-year ownership.

Ashley is also expected to attempt to purchase Derby’s Pride Park stadium from Derby’s former owner Mel Morris. His Sports Direct company has a large distribution centre based on the Pride Park industrial estate, which is  a stone’s throw from the stadium.