Hearts have received a formal transfer offer from Bologna for teenage defender Aaron Hickey which is worth £1.3million.
The bid was submitted on Tuesday and officials at Tynecastle Park are now negotiating with their Italian counterparts.
Owner Ann Budge admitted a European club had made an offer and that she anticipates 18-year-old Hickey leaving in the near future.
Hearts value him at £1.5m with a year remaining on his contract. Despite several attempts to agree an extension, they do not expect him to stay.
Bayern Munich and Celtic are also interested along with Bologna, plus a number of English teams who are monitoring the situation.
“Despite all the names thrown about, the club has only had one approach. That was on Tuesday of this week. We did receive an offer. I have gone back to them with a couple of questions so it is basically still being discussed,” said Budge.
“I would love to keep Aaron here but – I don't want to imply that it's Aaron – the situation has snowballed a bit. Could we turn it back again? I don't think we would have much chance of success.
“He's got advisors and his advisors are telling him that he would be better moving. We have been trying to get Aaron to sign a long-term contract for a very long time.
“We've gone back two or three times but with all the recent interest I think it would be difficult to persuade him to stay.”
When asked if this week’s offer is close to the club’s valuation, Budge replied: “It's not a million miles away. It's pretty close. It was from Europe.”
Hickey has visited Bologna and Bayern to see their facilities in recent weeks and was especially taken aback by the surroundings at the European champions.
However, Bologna officials have since made a strong push to tempt him to Italy. They are prepared to give him a place in their first-team squad, whereas Bayern see him as a reserve player initially.
Budge stated Hickey wants Hearts to benefit from a decent transfer fee regardless where he ends up.
“Yes, I do believe that. He is a lovely young lad. That's one of the reasons I would love him to stay. He is also very sensible and he'll think it all through,” she said.
“He works so hard and, despite everything going on, he is giving his all to training. I've spoken to his agent but I haven't spoken to Aaron. It's very difficult these days. I'm not allowed to go near Oriam because I don't get tested [for coronavirus].”
Developing young players and selling them for profit is a key part of Budge’s future plans for Hearts. She is frustrated the club have not done more of those deals since she took charge in 2014.
Hickey arrived at Tynecastle from Celtic two years ago but Budge wants home-grown talent reared in the Riccarton youth academy to flourish at first-team level.
When the time is right, they can then be sold on. “I think we can do that better,” she said. “Six years ago, I put together a plan of what kind of club we wanted to be.
“The one area where we haven't achieved my goal is selling on home-grown players. I think it's still the right thing to do. It's still absolutely central to our plans because it ticks so many boxes.
“The supporters like nothing more than to see our own academy recruits coming through and playing for the first team, then moving on to bigger and better things. We will keep doing it.”
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