Hearts unfazed about Aaron Hickey speculation as club keep working on new contract
Manchester City have been persistently linked with the ultra-composed 17-year-old, while Southampton have also been credited with an interest in the wake of his eye-catching introduction to the first-team over the past five months. Rangers became the latest club to be billed as a suitor after Ross Wilson, who was behind previous club Southampton’s interest in Hickey, was appointed as the new sporting director at Ibrox on Monday.
It has been claimed this week that Wilson, the 36-year-old Scot, will recommend that Rangers make a move for Hickey in January. Craig Levein, the Hearts manager, is giving short shrift to the possibility of his team’s prized asset moving to Govan in the next transfer window. “Who do we play at the weekend?” he asked wryly, noting that the story had come out just days before Hearts host Rangers this Sunday, before joking: “We’re going to put an offer in for (Alfredo) Morelos tomorrow. I’m taking that one with a lump of salt.”
As long as he is delivering performances of a level that defy his youthfulness, as he has done on a remarkably consistent basis since making his debut away to Aberdeen in May, Hickey will continue to be linked with bigger clubs. His current contract is due to expire at the end of next season and Levein revealed at the end of last month that he was in dialogue with Hickey’s father aimed at extending the versatile youngster’s deal at Tynecastle. He confirmed yesterday that talks are still ongoing in that regard. “I’m still working on it,” said Levein. “I want to just try and get it done with his dad and then I’ll talk about it.”
If any English Premier League club is planning to move for Hickey, it is likely that they will do so in January so that he would be classed as a homegrown player if he eventually got to the level required to be part of the first team. Current Premier League rules state that all 25-man squads must contain at least eight homegrown players. In order to be classified as “homegrown”, a player must have been with an English team for at least three years before the age of 21. With Hickey due to turn 18 in June, he would need to be signed by a team down south before the end of this season in order to fulfil this criteria, increasing the possibility that Hearts’ resolve could be tested with a notable offer within the next few months.
With his former club Celtic due 30 per cent of any transfer fee, it goes without saying that Hearts’ position would be significantly strengthened if they can agree a new deal with one of the standout youngsters to emerge at Tynecastle in recent decades.