Another transfer window lurches around, another key midfielder enters the final furlong of his contract.
Aberdeen have been over this course before. Ryan Jack ran his contract down and joined Rangers in 2017, while Kenny McLean turned down the chance to stay at Pittodrie to go to Norwich a year later.
This year, Graeme Shinnie looks to be the latest name to add to that list, as manager Derek McInnes again prepares for a vital cog in his midfield machine potentially departing. Club captain Shinnie is out of contract in the summer and there has been little to indicate he will be staying in the Granite City, insisting last month this would be one of the most important decisions of his career.
This is a situation McInnes is used to, having had to replace those aforementioned players, and former Dons striker Billy Dodds believes the club may be powerless to stop it happening again.
He said: “When your contract is running down, you’re in the international squad and doing such a good job with your club, there’s a time to strike. I’m not saying he wants away but if it (contract) is left that long, there are obviously other things turning his head. If you’re happy to be there long-term, you put pen to paper and sign.
“One thing is Derek has lost big players before and brought players in to replace them. He won’t stand in a player’s way if they have done a good job for him.
“It’s a great club and well-managed from the top but money talks. Aberdeen will offer him a great deal but you can’t push the boat out too far. They have got a decent budget in terms of Scotland but when clubs from England come calling, it’s difficult for them.”
Shinnie has been an integral part of the Dons squad since joining in 2015 from Caley Thistle. He has played in three cup finals under McInnes and been part of four European campaigns, while finally making his Scotland debut last year.
“Suitors from England are sure to take notice of the 27-year-old, with Bristol City, Brentford and Hull City reported to be admirers of his services.
McInnes wanted answers from both Shinnie and Gary Mackay-Steven – also out of contract in the summer – this month, to allow him to plan for the future. Both players are set to jet out to Dubai with the club this week for their winter training camp.
It was proven in McInnes’ pursuit of a striker in the summer market that budgets just do not stack up to sides even in the third tier of English football. The Dons’ offer for Doncaster striker John Marquis was insufficient, while McInnes admitted “five or six” targets proved to be dead ends.
Dodds has been in a similar situation to the Dons at Ross County, where money from the English Championship has proved too good to turn down.
The Staggies lost Jackson Irvine and Liam Boyce to Burton Albion in consecutive summers, with the former going on to join Hull City.
Dodds added: “With Liam we just knew there were going to be clubs that would come in for him and it was the same with Jackson. You’ve just got to let the boys enhance their career.
“It does not look good for Aberdeen with Graeme and Gary but you never know. Derek will have to speak to them and see what they’re thinking.
“But from the outside, anything like six month to go on a contract looks like you might have an eye on other things.”