Aaron Hickey Brentford transfer decision explained as former Hearts boss Craig Levein reveals Premier League interest

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Craig Levein believes guaranteed game time was a major factor behind Aaron Hickey's decision to join Brentford rather than a bigger Premier League club.

The Scotland international completed his move to the London side on Saturday. It's understood that Brentford paid Bologna an initial fee of around £14 million with potential add-ons potentially taking the deal upwards of £18m. Hearts will also receive a significant six-figure fee due to a sell-on clause they included when Hickey moved to Italy in 2020.

Levein handed Hickey his professional debut as a 16-year-old and the former Hearts boss admits he was blown away by the talented full-back's composure.

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The 57-year-old revealed that Hickey fell asleep on the way to face Celtic in the Scottish Cup final in 2019 as he was so relaxed. Hickey was strongly linked with Arsenal this summer and Levein admitted he received calls from other interested English Premier League clubs.

The former Hearts boss told the BBC: "The interesting thing is, Aaron's actually right footed, everyone thinks he's left footed. But he's that good with both feet.

"There have not been many players that I've played with or managed who are genuinely as equally as balanced on either side. I gave him his debut.

"He played so well we played him at Celtic Park a week before the cup final. So that made up my mind about putting him into the team for the final and he was fabulous.

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"He's so calm he fell asleep on the bus going to the cup final -16 year old playing in the cup final and he fell asleep.

Craig Levein gave Aaron Hickey his Hearts debut as a 16-year-old. Picture: Ross Parker / SNSCraig Levein gave Aaron Hickey his Hearts debut as a 16-year-old. Picture: Ross Parker / SNS
Craig Levein gave Aaron Hickey his Hearts debut as a 16-year-old. Picture: Ross Parker / SNS

"I've had phone calls from a number of Premier League clubs in the last year looking for a character reference on him. His career trajectory has just been stellar.

"I'm sure he could go to Arsenal or wherever and get more money. But I'm sure he's going to Brentford because he knows he's going to play."

Hickey has agreed a four-year contract with Brentford after making 36 league appearances in Serie A last season.

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"We think that Aaron is a player with great potential, who already has an impressive number of games at a good level under his belt,” said Bees boss Thomas Frank. "We think we can help him be even better.”

Hickey has a Brentford family connection too. His mum’s uncle, Hugh McLaughlin, made seven appearances for Brentford during the 1960s. Substitutes were introduced to the Football League in 1965 and McLaughlin made history by becoming Brentford’s first-ever substitute, replacing Billy Cobb after 42 minutes of a 0-0 draw at home to Oldham in October 1965.