The 19-year-old is out of contract and United have now confirmed he is leaving Tannadice after rejecting their offer of a new deal. Several other clubs in Scotland and England are circling. Neilson’s talks with Hearts are at an advanced stage and the Edinburgh club feel he can develop into a first-team regular.
They could potentially avoid paying United compensation because of when the Tayside club lodged Neilson’s contract offer. That issue is sure to be contested by United officials. Teams south of the Border are also aware that the player is available as a free agent.
Dundee United sporting director Tony Asghar said: “We have been in discussions with Lewis Neilson and his representatives since September and made him a concrete contract offer in February.
“These discussions were ongoing until Lewis rejected our final offer this week. He will now be leaving the club.
“Lewis was with us for almost a decade and progressed through our academy to make the breakthrough into the first team over the last two seasons. We wish him the very best in the next stage of his career.”
The teenager is now considering his options and wants to ensure he plays every week next term.
He can operate at right-back and centre-back and is comfortable in a three-man or four-man defence. He has represented Scotland at under-16 and under-17 level and is viewed as a player with considerable potential.
Neilson joined United at the age of ten and progressed through their youth academy system before signing his first professional contract in summer 2019. That agreement was then extended until this summer after he impressed.
Former Tannadice manager Micky Mellon handed Neilson a senior debut at the start of the 2020/21 campaign. He then spent time on loan at Falkirk before making ten appearances under Mellon’s successor, Tam Courts, in the season just ended.
Hearts feel Neilson could add depth to their back four as they try to finalise the signing of Australian internationalist Kye Rowles. He is waiting for a UK work permit to be approved.
John Souttar has left to join Rangers on a pre-contract agreement so defensive reinforcements are a priority at Tynecastle this summer.