Robbie Neilson wants to tie down Aaron Hickey to a long-term deal at Hearts as he admits interest in the player is bound to intensify this season.

Hickey has been tracked by clubs around Europe including the likes of Bayern Munich, Lazio and Manchester City as well as Celtic and Rangers closer to home. But Neilson hopes he can convince the youngster to stick around at Tynecastle.

The manager understands the hype behind the 18-year-old and believes he has a bright future. He just wants to make sure that future is with Hearts, for now. "I expect interest but my hope is that [Hickey] comes back for pre-season," Neilson said. "My hope is that he plays for us over the season and we can tie him down to a longer deal.

"He's still a young kid and he still needs to develop. This is a great place for him to develop. Those will be conversations we have with him in the coming weeks and we'll see how it goes. We want to keep hold of our best players and Aaron comes into that category.

"He's shown great potential but at the moment it is potential. From Aaron's perspective it's important he plays football matches and get that here. I've seen a lot of young players that have burst onto the scene, who have left early and not played first team football but ended up going down to U23s football in England.

"It can be difficult to get a career. For me they should come in and try and play 100 games at first team level and then make the move. It's something we'll discuss in the coming weeks and hopefully he agrees with us."

Former Hearts winger Sam Nicholson is now a free agent, meanwhile, after leaving Colorado Rapids and would fit in with the recruitment needs outlined by Neilson. And talks between the two parties could begin soon. "He is one we are interested in but I think there will be a lot of interest in Sam," the manager added. "There is already a lot of interest down south in him. We will have a chat with him and see where it goes."