Hearts to hold contract talks with Lawrence Shankland - transfer fee would be difficult for clubs to match

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The prolific striker's deal at Tynecastle Park runs until summer 2025

The Hearts chief executive Andrew McKinlay stressed today that he does not want to sell top goalscorer Lawrence Shankland. The Tynecastle Park hierarchy expect to hold talks with the player early next year about extending his contract, which is due to expire in summer 2025.

Shankland has scored 12 goals in 23 clubs appearances so far this season and has found the net 40 times in 70 games since arriving in Gorgie from Beerschot in summer 2022. He is a contender for Scotland's European Championship squad and Hearts firmly want him to stay.

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The Edinburgh club anticipated approaches from Saudi Arabian sides during the summer but those did not materialise. Rumours of Rangers moving to sign the striker have not manifested into any kind of contact between the clubs so far. McKinlay insisted only an "exceptional" offer would force the board to even consider selling their biggest asset.

"The stats speak for themselves. It would be nice if some others chipped in with some goals but Lawrence is vital to the team. He is not someone I would be looking to sell," said McKinlay. "I won't give numbers but it [any offer] would have to be exceptional. I don't even know what that number would be."

McKinlay referenced the £5m extra income Hearts made from reaching the Europa Conference League group stages last season as an indication of what Shankland could be worth. Whether any club would be willing to match that valuation, McKinlay has doubts.

"If you look at the numbers around being in group-stage football in Europe and not being in group-stage football in Europe, that gives you an indication of what that's worth to the club," he said. "In fact, the way it is at the moment, he [Shankland] would be the difference. So we are talking significant sums. These are not sums I expect anyone to match."

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Hearts must weigh up the risk and reward of keeping Shankland as his contract runs down throughout next year and into 2025. "That's the great art in this and we are not in control of that. We are never in control of that," admitted McKinlay. "A player is totally in control of that situation. The point you will make is: 'Yeah, but then you have to decide if we are going to sell him.'

"At the moment, like any other season, our focus is on the players out of contract at the end of this season. We will get those dealt with first, probably then look at the January window, see where we are, and I would expect us to probably have conversations with Lawrence at that point to see where he is and how he is feeling about things.

"I'm saying that off the top of my head because that's what we would usually do. That's a normal way that we do business. There is a huge amount can happen between now and the end of January. You would want a chat with any player. You want to understand whether there is a conversation to be had. As I said, the players have the power. Football clubs often get criticised for allowing football players to run down their contracts. I can’t stop a player running down their contract.

"Yes, you could have sold them before, but if he does not want to go, you cannot force a guy to go somewhere else. There has to be a market. As I said earlier, I have not had any indication from anyone that they want to buy Lawrence Shankland. I am being unequivocal. We have had nothing in to suggest that anyone is coming in for Lawrence Shankland."

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Asked about Shankland-related enquiries from other clubs during this summer, McKinlay advised there was no interest of any real substance. "Nothing concrete. There were rumours and we said it at the time that something might come in from Saudi Arabia, and we did not receive anything at all. No bids, nothing."

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