Celtic, Rangers, Hearts and Hibs stars who could sign a pre-contract with other clubs in January

When it comes to the transfer market and the expiry of players’ contracts, clubs are always looking to plan ahead. Recently Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou spoke of looking four windows ahead.

“You don’t just look at what the immediate concerns are, you look at medium term and long term issues as well,” he said. “That’s just as important.”

With the transfer market being such a competitive field and players constantly weighing their options, having a robust structure in place can be the difference between failure and success.

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The last thing teams want to do is lose a key player on a pre-contract agreement. You only have to look at last season and John Souttar, then at Hearts, doing so with Rangers.

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We look at the positions Celtic, Hearts, Hibs and Rangers are in with regards to players entering the final six months of their deals.

Celtic

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Conor Hazard

Celtic are in a very strong position with just one player in Hazard who has decent first-team experience out of contract next summer. The Northern Irishman is currently on loan at Finnish giants HJK Helsinki, helping them reach the Europa League group stages.

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Ryan Porteous and Ryan Kent are two key Premiership stars out of contract at the end of the season. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

The Scottish champions and league leaders will likely lose key players due to how well they have been performing domestically and on the continent. The likes of Jota, Liel Abada, Matt O’Riley, Reo Hatate and more should interest clubs across Europe because of their undoubted quality. But because Celtic have been on top of contract renewals they will be sure to guarantee big fees.

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Hearts

Ross Stewart, Michael Smith, Josh Ginnelly, Peter Haring, Gary Mackay-Steven, Finlay Pollock, Connor Smith, Robert Snodgrass, Liam Boyce, Euan Henderson

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While Robbie Neilson has ten first-team players out of contract, none can be regarded as important as Souttar was this time last year. Pollock, Smith and Henderson have not been able to carve out a regular spot at first-team level, while Stewart has been No 2 to Craig Gordon and could find that position may no longer be his with Zander Clark signing earlier this month.

Rangers may have missed the boat to get big money for Alfredo Morelos. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
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Haring, who signed a new deal in the summer, has a one-year extension option as part of that agreement. No player has played more games for Hearts across the past six seasons than Smith and he continues to be a key player. Boyce’s future is interesting with the striker currently out with a long-term injury, while Snodgrass signed a deal until the end of the season.

Ginnelly and Mackay-Steven have been in and out of the team. The former a more regular option with the latter having struggled to replicate the kind of form he had at Dundee United and Aberdeen.

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Hibs

Kevin Dabrowski, Ryan Porteous, Darren McGregor, Lewis Stevenson, Aiden McGeady

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McGregor and Stevenson have been Easter Road stalwarts who will surely finish their careers in Leith, the currently injured McGeady has yet to make an impact after signing a one-year deal and Dabrowski may see his future elsewhere to get regular first-team football.

Porteous is the player who will be giving the Hibs hierarchy some nervousness. The centre-back has received plenty of headlines, on and off the field, and is currently one of the most divisive players in Scottish football. He hasn’t had his best start to the season but possesses the attributes required to play at a high level, including playing out from the back.

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Having Scotland boss Steve Clarke in your corner is a massive benefit.

“I will only judge Ryan by what he does for us, how he trains for us, how he works for us when he gets his chance to play," Clarke said. “That’s how I will judge him. I have found him to be a very enthusiastic, polite young man who comes into the group, trains well, works well and is desperate to play for his country.”

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Hibs will be desperate to tie him down to a new deal to ensure the club receives a transfer fee when he moves on. He is the age profile which will likely attract Italian teams who currently see the Scottish market as an attractive one with Aaron Hickey, Lewis Ferguson and Josh Doig all making the move in recent seasons.

It would be a surprise if there is not a scramble to get the centre-back's signature.

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Rangers

Robby McCrorie, Allan McGregor, Adam Devine, Filip Helander, Scott Arfield, Steven Davis, Ianis Hagi, Ryan Jack, Ryan Kent, Alfredo Morelos, Robbie Ure

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The Rangers squad is in need of further regeneration next summer and with a host of players in the final year of their contract it will likely undergo it. McGregor and Davis are at the stage of their career where they are unlikely to attract pre-contract interest.

Devine and Ure, as young promising talents, could be offered extensions, while a big decision has to be made with McCrorie. Third choice once more this season, he's now at an age where he needs to be a No 1 and play regularly.

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The three players the club will be wary of their contracts running down are Hagi, Kent and Morelos. That trio are the most likely to attract interest in January.

Hagi has been out for a long period. His versatility, creativity and on-the-ball talent has been missed. Morelos has not had a good start to the season and it seems Rangers have missed the period where they can eke out a big-money transfer for his sale. Then there is Ryan Kent. Still lacking the goal scoring numbers but dazzled on the European stage last season. The club spent upwards of £7million to bring him in from Liverpool. The last thing they will want to see is him leaving on a free.

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