Hearts are set to reward derby hero Aaron Hickey with a bumper contract extension.
The teenaged fullback, whose goal against Hibs gave the Gorgie club their first league win of the season and allowed them to move away from the foot of the Premiership table, is already being watched by a raft of top level clubs, including Southampton and Manchester City.
The 17 year-old’s current contract expires at the end of next season but, hoping to prolong his stay at Tynecastle and ensure they ultimately cash in on his talent, manager Craig Levein revealed that they are already deep in talks aimed at extending his existing deal.
“We’re in the middle of that just now. It’s been quite difficult, though.
“He doesn’t have an agent. I’ve been dealing with his dad. And it’s been a little bit drawn out. But we’ll get there in the end.
“It’s not bothering the boy. It’s not something he’s overly concerned about. He just turns up and does his work, then goes home. He’s so low-maintenance you wouldn’t know he was in the building.”
But, recent performances will have done little to scare away prospective suitors, including Pep Guardiola’s Premier League champions, who are reportedly weighing up a £1.5m bid to add him to their development squad in January.
Impressed by Hickey’s emergence at the end of last season, holding his own in back to back matches against treble treble winners Celtic, including the Scottish Cup final, they have been keeping tabs on the down-to-earth starlet since.
Should they succeed in securing his signature at the turn of the year, the expectation is that he could then be loaned back to the capital side, who have worked hard to cultivate a relationship with the English side, and currently have their young Japanese player Ryotaro Meshino on a season-long loan.
For Hearts, tying Hickey up on a longer term deal would ensure they get a strong return on their investment but they are also hoping that he may be willing to postpone a switch south, having seen the patience of fellow left-backs Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson eventually rewarded with massive moves.
“It’s like any young player who’s playing. There’s always going to be interest,” admitted Levein
“The big thing for him is he is getting game time. For kids his age, getting first team football is the hardest thing to get coming through the Academy.
“I’ve no qualms about playing them if they are good enough and I’m glad to get rewarded by Aaron scoring the winning goal, but he’s also helping the team, which in turn helps me.
“We’re giving him valuable experience but he’s rewarding me with his performances. So we are getting on quite well.”