English clubs poised to move for Hearts defender John Souttar
Several English clubs are watching Hearts defender John Souttar hoping to sign him for free next summer.
Middlesbrough and Stoke City are among those showing interest in the 25-year-old, who this week was recalled to the Scotland squad after a three-year absence through injury.
Souttar’s contract at Tynecastle Park expires at the end of the season and talks about a renewal have yet to progress since initial discussions several weeks ago.
Hearts want to keep him but know they face competition for his signature from the English Championship. Blackburn Rovers have been credited with an interest alongside Middlesbrough and Stoke.
Souttar’s younger brother, Harry, plays at Stoke and has enjoyed a steadily-rising career since moving south from Dundee United five years ago. He is now an established internationalist with Australia.
Middlesbrough kept tabs on the elder Souttar for some time under former manager Neil Warnock, although it is not clear whether that interest will be pursued further since Warnock left Teesside just last week.
Souttar has been outstanding for Hearts since returning from a third Achilles rupture in April this year. The consistency earned him a Scotland recall for World Cup qualifiers against Moldova in Chisinau tonight and Denmark at Hampden Park on Monday.
Tynecastle officials remain eager to get back round the table with the centre-back in an attempt to agree terms for a contract extension. They want to tie him down on a new long-term deal, thus ensuring a transfer fee if he does leave over the coming months.
Souttar can talk to any other club about a pre-contract agreement in a matter of weeks once his existing agreement enters its last six months. Hearts would not be entitled to compensation if he leaves as a free agent given he is over the age of 23.
The Edinburgh club would be reluctant to sell him in January in a cut-price deal. That could mean he departs Tynecastle for nothing next summer.
Hearts paid Dundee United £120,000 for Souttar in January 2016. He was 19 at the time and has since blossomed into one of the best central defenders in the country despite his injury troubles.