The 19-year-old full-back will net Hearts a handsome sum if rumours of a big money move from Bologna transpire in the coming weeks and the fee is only going to go one way after his international breakthrough.
Hickey won his third cap and made his first start against Ukraine on Wednesday and hopes to add to that when Scotland begin their Nations League campaign with matches against Armenia home and away and the Republic of Ireland over the next 10 days.
Reports in Italy suggest that Arsenal are leading the chase for his signature this summer, with Corriere dello Sport reporting that the Premier League club are preparing to offer more £20 million for the former Hearts youngster. The Italian newspaper says Bologna have already turned down a bid of nearly £10 million from Brentford.
Hickey, of course, has previously been linked with AC Millan, Aston Villa, West Ham and other big clubs. After a very productive season in Serie A and international breakthrough for Scotland, the versatile teenager is a man in demand.
Hearts are understood to have negotiated at 10 per cent sell-on clause when they sold Hickey to Bologna in September 2020, which means the Tynecastle club could – depending on the finer details – be in line to pocket £2 million or more.
Hickey is well aware of all the speculation but is doing his best to ignore it while on international duty with Scotland. “I just look at it and keep my head down,” he said. “Wherever I am I just focus on what I’m doing.”
What he’s doing now is making himself a contender to start regularly for Scotland, his versatility affording him the opportunity against Ukraine to start at right wing-back. He prefers the left but is two footed and has played on the right-hand side several times for Bologna this season, including in a 1-1 draw with Juventus. That versatility is an asset in a Scotland squad very well stocked at left-back.
Hickey explained: “I can play with my right foot. I prefer playing left-back but I’ll do everything to play so if the manager wants to put me at right-back I’m happy with that. There are two top-class left-backs, so it'll be difficult, but who can tell the future? I like right-back as well. I’ve played there a few times for Bologna.”
He feels his game has come on leaps and bounds in Serie A thanks to intensive coaching on defensive positioning and body shape under Siniša Mihajlović, himself an accomplished left-back for Serbia, Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio and Inter.
“Things have gone well at Bologna,” said Hickey. “I think I’ve had a good season there. Since going to Italy I feel like I’ve improved different parts of my game.
“It’s a top experience for me to go to a different country, a different culture and a different way of playing football.
“They spend a lot of time in training, basically every day, looking at tactically where you should be, body shape, that sort of thing. The manager and the coaching staff have really helped me with that. Talking about it, walking through it in training, even watching videos on where to be.”
Scotland (and Hearts) fans will be watching with interest to see where Hickey will be next.