The news came on the same day that Barry Douglas joined striker Jon Daly in leaving Tannadice, with the left-back completing a switch to Polish side Lech Poznan.
Fans’ favourite Russell, 23, has one year left on his current deal with the Tangerines and has been the subject of ongoing interest both from England and Italy. United have already kncked back offers from ambitious Serie A outfit Catania while a host of English Championship clubs, believed to include Derby County, are also in the running for the striker’s signature.
Now United chairman Thompson has admitted that Russell, who banged in an impressive 20 goals last season, will be moving on for the benefit of the Tannadice club.
Thompson said: “Johnny won’t renew or extend his contract. We’ve been told that by his agent. So it’s a situation where we’ve got to look after and protect the club at the end of the day, which means that we should be selling him in the summer.
“We’ve decided to keep things private and not name clubs.
“One did come out a number of weeks ago, which was from Italy, and we turned that down.
“There has been an English club who has made a bid. It’s not quite what we’d like and others have spoken to us, but I will not say anything more.”
United have already signed Brian Graham, Paul Paton and Chris Erskine ahead of the new campaign but they have lost a striker in long-serving captain Daly, who has joined Rangers in the Second Division, while midfielder Willo Flood is said to be mulling over his future and Rory Boulding, Steve Banks and Marcus Tornstrad are out of contract this summer.
Yesterday they also lost a defender when Douglas penned a two-year deal with Poznan after passing a medical.
The 23-year-old former Queen’s Park player, who has made 75 appearances in three seasons at Tannadice, was out of contract next month and available on a free transfer to clubs outside Scotland.
His deal also includes the option of extending his stay with the six-times Polish champions for a further 12 months.
Poznan’s sporting director Piotr Rutkowski told the club’s official website: “We like innovative solutions and that is why we decided to look for new players who are fairly unknown in the Polish market.
“We’ve been watching Dundee United for the past two years now while we’ve been looking for a left-back and I knew that someone like Barry Douglas could fit in here.
The transfer has been completed relatively quickly because Douglas had ended his contract with United and he did not have to negotiate with his club, which often delays the transfer.”
Douglas’ new club are currently second in this season’s Ekstraklasa, the Polish top flight, sitting six points behind leaders Legia Warsaw with two games to play.
Douglas said last night that he had asked United’s Polish goalkeeper, Radosław Cierzniak, about football in his home country.
“His views were positive, but I wanted to see it for myself,” said the player. “I was at the game with Widzew Lodz and I loved the atmosphere in the stands.”
It is understood that Tangerines’ manager Jackie McNamara, who himself joined from Partick Thistle in January, was keen to keep a hold of Douglas but that the Tannadice club were unable or unwilling to match the terms being offered by the Polish outfit.
“You can see that in Poznan they like you to play football and they will be playing in the European arena,” added Douglas.
“I wanted to try something new and it seemed to me an interesting proposition.”