Success could come at a cost with 17 players about to enter the final six months of their deal, the most of any team in the top flight, with the opportunity for those Hearts players to speak with other clubs about signing pre-contracts.
While the majority of those 17 are fringe players, first-team regulars who could leave for nothing in the summer include John Souttar, Craig Halkett, Stephen Kingsley, Craig Gordon, Peter Haring and Andy Halliday. There’s also Ben Woodburn and Alex Cochrane, who are out of contract at parent clubs Liverpool and Brighton, respectively.
Talks have been ongoing with no deals as yet announced. But even if negotiations break down with these players, Neilson insists the carrot of European group-stage football, which Hearts will achieve if they stay the course and the Scottish Cup is won by a top-three team, is too important to be pushed into selling anyone for a modest fee.
“We’ve obviously got a number of players out of contract – but we’re not in a situation where we need to sell them,” he said.
“I’ve had a chat with Joe [Savage] and the board. And we know that, unless somebody comes in willing to pay really big money for somebody, they’ll stay here until the end of the season.
“Because the objective this season is to get into Europe. And that, financially, is worth a lot of money to the club – certainly enough to outweigh any mediocre bid we’re going to get for a player.”
Neilson added: “It’s good to be reassured on that front. We’ve got the Foundation here, we’ve got a strong board and financially we’re in a good position, so we don’t need to sell.
“The important thing from the football side is we’re sitting in that European position right now. We need to be there at the end of the season to get the financial rewards from that, so we can build again.
“So it’s really important we don’t let anyone go for low bids.”