Hearts boss explains why he hopes to keep Middlesbrough, Rangers, Sheffield United, Blackburn Rovers and Stoke City target John Souttar this window

Middlesbrough are reported to be among a host of clubs chasing defender John Souttar – but the Hearts boss hopes to keep hold of him this month.

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 2:12 pm

His current contract ends this summer and reports in Scotland claim he could look to sign a pre-contract agreement with a new club this month.

Boro are looking to strengthen under Chris Wilder as they push for promotion back to the Premier League.

Reports suggest several clubs are tracking the defender.

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Chris Wilder. (Photo by John Early/Getty Images)

Rangers, Sheffield United, Blackburn Rovers and Stoke City have all been linked with the defender, with Boro among the clubs named.

But Hearts boss Robbie Neilson has said he doesn’t want to sell one of his best players this month with it unlikely Hearts will sell Souttar this month.

As reported by the Edinburgh Evening News, he told the Scarves Around the Funnel podcast: “As we’ve said all along, our aim this season is to get European qualification."

He added: “You’ll remember five years ago when we lost Osman Sow. That had a real negative impact, not just in terms of losing the player but on the dressing room, and on the club and fanbase, that we’d lost one of our best players. Although we ended up that season finishing third, I felt we struggled to get our feet over the line.

“We have to keep our best players in the team. If that means it’s at the end of the season they go, then it’s the end of the season when they go.

“Unless there’s a crazy bid coming in, but I don’t expect there will be,” he added.

Middlesbrough are looking to further strengthen before the January 31 deadline.

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