Hearts manager Robbie Neilson says he is confident of keeping prized asset Osman Sow at Tynecastle, even though he expects the Swede’s form to attract potential suitors in January.
The former Crystal Palace frontman, who scored 12 goals last season despite a three-month injury lay-off during Hearts’ romp to the Championship title, has adjusted well to the step up to the top flight. The 25-year-old, who has been deployed from a wide role at times this term, has still found the net eight times, including a remarkable 35-yard equaliser against Motherwell in Hearts’ last outing, a 2-2 draw at Fir Park.
With Sow’s contract set to expire at the end of the season, he will be able to talk to potential suitors next month.
But Hearts are now set to step up efforts to extend the forward’s contract and Neilson insists he is relaxed about the situation.
He said: “Osman has done great. He came in last season and scored a lot of goals.
“There was always a doubt with all the players that when you go up to the top flight if they can adapt and he has adapted well. He has scored goals, good performances, so he’s someone we’d like to get tied up. But these things take time.
“I’m sure other clubs will have [noticed his form], it’s the same with all our players. Players do well and they attract interest, that’s the whole point of the club.
“Players will come in, do well, and we either keep them or we don’t keep them and they move on to bigger and better things. But I think Os is happy here and we’re happy with him so it’s something we hope we can get moving.”
Meanwhile, captain Alim Ozturk could come into contention for Saturday’s crucial trip to Pittodrie to take on second-placed Aberdeen after recovering from surgery to cure a persistent hernia complaint.
The Turkish centre back played 30 minutes for the Jambos’ development squad last week and Neilson was considering handing him a place on the bench against Inverness on Saturday prior to the fixture’s postponement.
Should he emerge unscathed from this week’s training, he will provide further defensive options for Hearts ahead of their crucial visit to the Granite City, where the Dons sit four points ahead of the third-placed Edinburgh side after their 2-0 win over Dundee on Saturday in one of the few Scottish games to survive the weather.
However, luckless striker Soufian El Hassnaoui will be absent until 2016 as he attempts to find full fitness. The Dutch-Moroccan suffered cruciate ligament damage during the Jambos’ 1-0 pre-season defeat by Preston in July. His maiden season at Tynecastle had been hampered by struggles with groin and ankle complaints.
Neilson added: “El Hassnaoui is starting to come back but it’s about building him slowly. We’ll be looking to the January window to get him back.”