Motherwell manager Mark McGhee claims he would be “amazed” if Oxford can afford Marvin Johnson after the Sky Bet League One club failed with a bid for the winger.
Oxford’s offer fell well below Motherwell’s valuation as the Fir Park club look for a seven-figure fee for the 25-year-old.
Johnson, who scored three goals and created another three in Motherwell’s Betfred Cup campaign, has two years left on his contract.
Oxford recently bought Dundee striker Kane Hemmings - triggering a release clause in his contract - after selling Kemar Roofe to Leeds in a reported £3million deal.
McGhee said: “We had an approach from Oxford and we respect their approach, but I’d be amazed if Oxford have the amount of money it would require to get Marvin out of here.”
The former Wolves and Brighton boss also believes Johnson’s ambitions should be higher than League One.
“That is not an observation about the club, but more about the league they are playing in,” he added.
“I was at Brighton against Lazio on Sunday and I could have dropped Marvin into that game, and for me he would probably have been the best player on the pitch. Marvin can play in the Championship without any doubt in my mind.
“He’s an outstanding athlete, he’s an outstanding player, he’s got an outstanding attitude towards training, towards playing, towards the team ethic.”
Motherwell have had no other concrete offers but McGhee admits they will do business for the right price.
“I spoke to someone at Brighton and the expression they used is that the place is awash with money,” he said. “People are trying to get good players and there are not enough. Players are getting offered wages that are another level up from what they were a year or two ago.
“So, when that starts to happen and a player gets an offer that is substantially more than what we can offer them, then how we can possibly stand in their way? But we have to balance that with the interests of the club and look for the market value.”
Meanwhile, Scott McDonald will be fit for Motherwell’s Ladbrokes Premiership opener at Kilmarnock on Saturday after recovering from a tight thigh, but summer signing Jacob Blyth still has to build up his fitness after missing three games with several niggles.
McGhee said: “He got the all-clear on his leg, or his hip, his side, now we just need to get an all-clear on his head. We have still got a wee bit of work to do there.”
Trial midfielders Lee Lucas and Craig Clay remain with the club although the former is working to overcome a hamstring injury.
“They are both good enough to be part of our squad,” McGhee said. “The fact is we probably don’t need both of them and probably don’t have the finances to maybe keep either of them.
“It’s getting to a point where we have to make a decision because Craig has other offers.”