Dundee United sporting director Tony Asghar says striker Lawrence Shankland is not for sale at any price.
Shankland has scored 15 goals for Robbie Neilson’s Championship leaders this season as they chase promotion to the Premiership.
The 24 year old joined from Ayr in the summer and last week became the first Championship player to play for Scotland since John McGinn in 2016, scoring on his first start in the 6-0 European Championship qualifying win over San Marino at Hampden.
Asghar yesterday announced contract extensions until 2022 for manager Neilson and his assistants Lee McCulloch and Gordon Forrest, and made the point that Shankland was vital to the club’s future plans.
“Lawrence was a target for us all last season. Robbie and I spoke about him and it took a lot of time and a lot of phone calls to get him,” said Asghar.
“This club has a history of selling players at the wrong time. My job is to get the best value for the club – and the best value for the club is to go on and get promotion over and above any money from a transfer fee.
“The owners have invested a lot of money. They’re craving success. If you weigh a transfer fee up against success on the pitch, they’ll take success on the pitch every time.
“I don’t think there’s any price you could name for us to sell him and then not give ourselves the best chance of promotion.”
Shankland signed a three-year deal at Tannadice and Asghar added: “Other clubs had a chance to take him six months ago and never took it – he understands that. He’s committed to the cause here. By seeing the coaching staff all signing new deals now, it will show him that we’re all in this for the long-term.”
“He’s a key part of what we’re trying to do, so I don’t expect any chats like this come January.”
Asghar also insisted that promotion back to the Premiership flight was just the start of United’s ambitions.
He added: “Being a top-flight side playing against even bigger teams would be huge for the fans. My personal ambition – and Robbie’s too – is then to compete in Europe again.
“I think for us to achieve that would be a real measure of our long-term success.”
For his part, Neilson is also targeting European participation, having already sampled it during his time in charge at Hearts.
He said: “We managed to do it at Hearts. We got promoted and then got ourselves into the Europa League qualifiers the following season.
“It’s great for the fans and then the players can test themselves at another level.
“That’s the ultimate aim for the club,” added Neilson.
“We don’t want to get too carried away but that’s our aspiration.
“The owner’s vision is to get the club into the top-flight and then push as far as we can . We, Tony and I, both believe in it.”