ROTHERHAM United manager Paul Warne says prize assets Matt Crooks and Michael Smith won't be allowed to leave on the cheap and could still play a part at the club next season.
Smith has been linked with Middlesbrough and Bristol City while Ipswich Town are understood to be sizing up a bid for Crooks and are ready to offer big wages by League One standards.
Although striker Smith (29) and midfielder Crooks (27) are in their prime and would prefer to be playing Championship football next season, neither have expressed a desire to leave.
For now at least, Warne expects them to report back for pre-season training and, if they do leave, it would only be on terms that suit Rotherham United and the players.
He said: “In fairness to Smudge and Matt, both have a year left on their contracts.
“I haven't had a conversation with them (about it). For all I know they might want to negotiate their contracts down and re-negotiate with us.
“I tried to re-negotiate with them last season and neither had a real appetite to do it.
“If you said to me you can have Smudge and Crooks for the season and let their contracts run out then I would if the money wasn't right.
“There is no point selling them for a cheap fee to a League One or a Championship club when from a football manager's point of view I would rather have them in the building.
“I don't want to lose any of my players but if the money is right and everyone is happy then it might well happen, but as of yet there has been no bids to turn down and no real official contact.
“It is no surprise clubs might like our players, because they're quite good.”
As reported in the Advertiser last week, Warne expects to do less transfer business than originally thought this summer.
Defender Matt Olosunde this week left an extra hole to fill by turning down fresh terms to stay.
Aside from Smith and Crooks, there is still a chance others could leave but ideally Warne wants to go into battle in League One next season with the current group, plus just a few new additions.
Whatever develops, he wants to be prepared for any eventuality.
Warne added: “We don't know if a bid might come in for Dan Barlaser, Ben Wiles or Curtis Tilt, who is now playing for Jamaica. We just don't know but we have to prepare like we have them here and if something was to happen then we have a Plan B.
“Having said that, a Plan B isn't as good as Plan A. I'd rather keep the Plan A.
“I'm not aware of any enquiries or bids for any of our players and that's the way I want it because that's my best chance of having a good season.
“The longer it goes on, the better position we're in and we don't need to improve in a lot of positions.
“We have 19 players and we only need to sign three. If we can keep this group together and add a couple then I'll be well happy.”
FACE-TO-FACE rather than virtual conversations are expected to take place with prospective signings in the next couple of weeks as the Millers look to step up their hunt for new talent.
Due to the financial impact of the pandemic and the impending European Championships, the summer transfer market has been slow at picking up.
Neither selling clubs, agents nor players are in any rush to do business but Rotherham United chief Paul Warne expects to meet some of his targets in person shortly rather than just via a video link.
“Myself, the coaches and the recruitment team are watching different players,” said Warne.
“I'm speaking to one next week who is out of contract and he's in no rush to meet me because he is enjoying his holiday.
“All players are confident they are going to get sorted out but I would rather sort my business out sooner rather than later.
“I have spoken to numerous people but as I always say to them: 'Go away and do your research on us and come back in a few weeks'.
“I'm hoping over the next ten days we might have meetings with players more than just Zoom ones and have a proper sit-down, but at the moment it is just a bit of a dead zone.”
With the transfer rumour mill in full flow, Warne is astounded by how wide of the mark some stories are.
He added: “I was back home (in Norfolk) last weekend and had time to tap into the Google bar and see who Rotherham United were linked with. There are rumours flying around all over the place, including me linked to players I have never heard of. It is all conjecture.”