Hearts have left the door ajar for Billy King to return to Tynecastle by extending his contract.
The winger signed a six-month extension to his existing Hearts deal, which was due to expire in June 2017, before joining Inverness Caledonian Thistle on a season-long loan.
The Edinburgh club have thus protected themselves against losing King, pictured below, for free when the loan ends next summer. He will return to Riccarton for season 2017/18 with six months left on his contract.
Head coach Robbie Neilson explained that he wants to assess the 22-year-old next year, and that he could still have a future at Hearts.
“We extended his contract by six months so that, when he comes back to the club next summer, we can have another look at him,” said Neilson.
“He came back from Rangers and, with the players we brought in, he wasn’t going to get a lot of game-time. He is at an age where he needs first-team football and under-20 games are no good for him. Hopefully he goes out and gets plenty of game time and we’ll have another look.
“I think he will go to Inverness and do well, but we have [Sam] Nicholson, [Dario] Zanatta and [Jamie] Walker. We will look to recruit in wide areas, so we thought this was the best option for him.”
With King and Morgaro Gomis gone, Hearts have freed up space to strengthen their squad. Neilson wants a striker and a left-sided midfielder. “Morgaro is away permanently [to the Malaysian club Kelantan],” he continued.
“He just wants to play every week and Malaysia was a big opportunity for him, we didn’t want to stand in his way.
“That frees up funds to recruit elsewhere. We have a very strong midfield but we will look to strengthen other areas.”