Dundee United boss Mixu Paatelainen has left the Tannadice door open for John Souttar.
The 19-year-old defender/midfielder, who has been linked with Celtic, will be a free agent in the summer when his current contract runs out.
In the meantime, he can speak to other clubs from New Year’s Day and sign a pre-contract agreement elsewhere while playing out the season with the Tangerines.
Souttar has chosen, so far, not to sign a fresh deal with United despite the club putting what they believe to be an excellent offer in front of him.
Even the fact that his wee brother Harry committed himself to the Tangerines earlier this month appears not to have changed his big brother’s mind.
Nevertheless, Paatelainen has not yet resigned himself to losing Souttar senior.
The United manager, who said there had been no contact between United and any team regarding the player, said: “Obviously we have been in discussions with him and at the moment things haven’t progressed.
“But they maybe will in the near future. I expect that.”
Asked if Souttar would benefit from sticking around at United, Paatelainen added: “I think so absolutely.
“I think that (staying) would be good for him.
“I think it is very important for any youngster to choose a club where they will get a chance to be on the pitch as part of the 11 or be coming off the bench.
“That allows them to develop and improve.
“You get players at a club and they haven’t played for three or four seasons.
“They haven’t done their careers any favours.
“Yes, financially they are better off but they are maybe not progressing as footballers.
“It is very important for players to play.”
Paatelainen didn’t start Souttar against Inverness Caley Thistle last Saturday but he did come on as a sub in midfield for the final 11 minutes of the 2-2 draw.
And it is in the centre of the park that Paatelainen thinks he can get the best out of him.
“Midfield is his best position,” said the Finn.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing for a youngster to play various positions as long as it’s not a different one every week.
“There has to be a period when he can concentrate on one position.
“He needs to play in that position so he realises what the role means, what to do and what not to do.”
Meanwhile, Paatelainen added his voice to the confident chorus coming out of Tannadice regarding Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.
Kawashima has recently been linked with a possible switch to Dutch side NEC Nijmegen but the United gaffer isn’t expecting his club’s deal to be hijacked at this late stage.
“I don’t know about that (NEC’s interest) but, obviously, if something like that were to happen we would be very disappointed,” he said.
“But Eiji is fully committed to us.
“It is 100% done for him to come here and we think now that we are over the final hurdle already.
“I haven’t spoken to him personally (United officials, however, have been in constant contact with Kawashima and his representatives).
“We expect him here next week.”
As for other possible arrivals, Paatelainen added: “We plan to bring in one or two if they fit the positions we are looking for.
“We want things done as soon as we can because the earlier they come in to work with us the better.
“We would like to do it on January 1 if possible but it may take longer than that.
”I think our squad is good so I don’t think we are in desperate need of players but if we can add experience and competition for places then that’s good.”