Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has started planning for life after Niall McGinn by entering into negotiations with Hull City midfielder Shaun Maloney.
The 34-year-old would likely be forced to accept up to a 90 per cent wage decrease to move to his hometown team – but the Dons have been encouraged by early talks and believe they stand a reasonable chance of bringing him to Pittodrie.
The midfielder is keen to return north of the border to end his career but a third spell at former club Celtic looks unlikely with Hoops manager Brendan Rodgers focused on bringing younger talent to Parkhead.
Hibernian manager Neil Lennon, Maloney’s teammate at Celtic for seven years, could make a move for the out of contract Hull player but the Dons are understood to be in the driving seat in the race to land the 47-times capped international.
Maloney was born in Malaysia but was educated in Aberdeen, attending the city’s St Joseph’s Primary School and Cults Academy. Along with his two spells at Parkhead, Maloney has also played for MLS side Chicago Fire, Aston Villa and Wigan Athletic, with whom he won the FA Cup in 2013.
Maloney joined Hull in August 2015 but has rarely featured this term with only two starts in the English Premier League. Maloney could yet be offered a new deal with Hull at the end of the season but the former Celtic player is believed to be seeking a move away from the Tigers whether or not they escape relegation to the Championship.
Hull are believed to have turned down an approach from Aberdeen to take Maloney on loan during the January transfer window but McInnes has placed him at the top of his transfer targets ahead of a busy summer recruitment drive as he bids to rebuild his squad with several first-team players set to leave.
Caley Thistle midfielder Greg Tansey has already signed a pre-contract agreement with the Dons, while Peter Pawlett is on the way out after agreeing to join MK Dons on a two year deal.
Dons captain Ryan Jack, who has been linked with a move to MLS side Columbus Crew, and Niall McGinn, are both reaching the end of their current deals and look unlikely to be at Pittodrie next term.
Maloney is also a former teammate of Aberdeen coach Barry Robson. The pair played together at Celtic between 2008 and 2010.