It will take a “huge bid” to prise John Souttar away from Hearts this January according to manager Robbie Neilson.
Scotland international Souttar can speak to interested clubs from next week as he enters the final six months of his deal at Tynecastle.
Hearts have been engaged with the 25-year-old and his agent since this summer trying to extend his contract but without a breakthrough.
With a number of clubs reportedly interested in signing Souttar, Neilson said they may have to weigh up the pros and cons of letting him leave when the transfer window opens on January 1.
The Hearts boss said: “Ann Budge and Joe Savage have been speaking to him and we have put forward a really good offer.
“It is now a case of just trying to negotiate that.
“John is coming in to that period of his contract where he can speak to other teams and they can speak to him but at this moment in time he is still a Hearts player.
“If he does decide it is time for him to move on it will take a huge bid in January for that to happen.
“Or else he will see out his contract and hopefully leave here happy.”
Hearts bought Souttar from Dundee United for around £120,000 on January deadline day in 2016.
He has gone on to make nearly 150 appearances, captained the team and made his international breakthrough for Scotland.
It has also been a period where the defender has suffered numerous injuries. Souttar suffered three separate Achilles tendon ruptures – firstly in 2017, then twice in 2020.
He also required hip surgery in 2018 and an operation to repair an injured ankle in 2019.
Asked how much Souttar was worth to Hearts for final months of his deal, Neilson said he would be pushing to keep him rather than let him leave for a transfer fee.
He said: “Probably the worst thing we could do is put a figure on it, but John is a key player for us.
“He will hopefully help us finish as high up as we can in the league and go as far as we can in the cup.
“So you have to balance off the two sides of it – what is [Souttar staying] worth, and what is a transfer worth?
“From my perspective as a coach I will be pushing to keep him here for as long as I can.”