Hearts manager Robbie Neilson has told Aston Villa target John Souttar to focus on his career with the Scottish side and not to make a move south of the border to English football too early, he told The Daily Record.
The 20-year-old defender has seen his performances with Hearts attract the attention of a host of English clubs, with Aston Villa being the latest linked to his name, but Neilson believes his future remains in Scotland for now.
“We see his future at Hearts. John understands he still has another couple of years to do here, to mature, get more physical and learn as a defender. You can see the progression he’s made since coming to Hearts but, even with that, he can still move up a few steps before he is ready to move down south.”
“It would be jumping the gun to talk about him leaving now. We have no interest in selling him and he has no interest in leaving. He has a great opportunity here, he is playing week in, week out for one of the top teams in Scotland. The next step for John is to try to get into the national team and play at a consistent level through an entire season at club level.”
Young Souttar clearly has his future set for a bigger club but Neilson is targeting better options for his player’s long-term future, and pointed to team-mate Callum Paterson as a example of making a mature decision.
“Callum Paterson is an example of that. He will go in the summer and he’ll go to be a first-team player. That is what I want for all my players. Whenever my players go, whether for a fee or compensation, we want them to be first-team players. I don’t want them to leave Hearts to be Under-21 players in England or get loaned out.”
Whether Souttar will go down that route remains to be seen, especially with the January transfer window rapidly approaching, and it’s unlikely to be the last time we hear the young defender linked with a move south of the border.
Souttar only arrived at Hearts in February, making the move from Dundee United, and has so far accumulated 24 caps for the Scottish giants.
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