Heart of Midlothian have suffered a few transfer howlers over the years, with a variety of players either leaving for nothing or being sold far too cheaply.
A perfect example is that of Josh Ginnelly. The former Hearts winger joined the club for free when his Preston North End contract expired in 2021, and he went on to be a big success at Tynecastle.
Across two full seasons, the Englishman scored 18 goals and grabbed 11 assists in a hugely productive spell in Edinburgh for the player.
As he was coming towards the end of his contract last season, Hearts offered him an improved deal, yet he turned it down and left the Jambos for nothing, going on to join Swansea City shortly after.
It represented a massive blow for Steven Naismith, who could have used his abilities this term, but it isn’t the first time Hearts have allowed this to happen.
John Souttar is another recent example of a player coming into their best form departing the club for nothing, as he joined Rangers on a pre-contract agreement last summer, yet there is another name who Hearts supporters will wish had remained at the Gorgie outfit for a few years longer – Aaron Hickey.
How much did Hearts sell Aaron Hickey for?
The left-back emerged as one of the finest talents the academy had produced in years during the 2019/20 campaign, going on to make 30 appearances across all competitions, and it was clear that he wouldn’t be with them for long.
Robbie Neilson, who had just returned to the managerial role, expected plenty of potential suitors for the youngster, saying: “I expect interest but my hope is that he comes back to pre-season.
“My hope is 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 do that. 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 matches.”
The motivational talk didn’t work as Hickey ended up signing for Italian side Bologna for a £1.5m transfer fee. This sounds like a solid bit of business, especially as he was coming into the final year of his deal, but his performances since departing Tynecastle have proven that the club had a shocker by selling him for so cheap.
What happened to Aaron Hickey?
The defender enjoyed a wonderful two-year spell in Serie A, going on to make 48 appearances for the club while even scoring five goals during his stint in Italy.
During his second season at Bologna, Hickey performed well and ranked in fourth place across the squad for goals and assists and seventh for successful dribbles per game, giving a demonstration of his attacking intent despite playing at left-back.
These displays caught the eyes of several teams and his brief spell in Italy was soon to be over, with a move back to British shores fast approaching.
Where is Aaron Hickey now?
Premier League side Brentford were mightily impressed with Hickey during his spell on the continent, and they managed to lure him to England, with the move costing the club £14m, a massive increase on the £1.5m Hearts sold him for just two years prior.
Manager Thomas Frank lauded the youngster upon his arrival, saying: “I am very pleased to sign Aaron.
“What he has already achieved in his career is very impressive. He is only 20 and has played a full season in Scotland as well as almost two seasons in Serie A.
“We think that Aaron is a player with great potential, who already has an impressive number of games at a good level under his belt.”
It has since gone on to be a great piece of business by the Bees, as they have turned Hickey from an extremely talented youngster into a player who is currently thriving in the English top flight.
As per Sofascore, he ranked sixth among the squad for accurate passes per game last term along with ranking sixth for successful dribbles per game and tackles per game, indicating that he settled in well at the club.
The 5 foot 8 starlet is also versatile in that he can operate either on the left or right-hand side of the defence and this isn’t just a big boost for Frank, but also for Steve Clarke, the Scotland manager.
How much is Aaron Hickey worth now?
The 21-year-old has won 11 Scotland caps so far during his short career and there will be plenty more in the future. The defender was even praised recently by commentator Mark Donaldson in 2021 with regard to his flexibility.
He said: “Aaron Hickey just as comfortable on his right-foot. A potential option for Scotland at right-back in future to compete with Nathan Patterson?”
He is only going to get better, especially as he plays more games in the Premier League and there is no doubt he will go on to play for a club such as Arsenal or Liverpool in the near future.
Having left Hearts for just £1.5m, Hickey is now valued at a staggering €21.8m (£19m) according to Football Transfers and this value should just keep increasing as time goes on.
Of course, it was inevitable that he was destined to leave Hearts for bigger and brighter things, yet if they had convinced him to sign a new deal during the summer of 2020 and held onto him for a season or two longer, they might’ve received a far greater transfer fee.
It was a major blow losing him so soon after shining in the first team, yet his progress should give the other youngsters in the academy plenty of hope that if they work hard and take the opportunities presented to them by Naismith, they might also get to experience the bright lights of Serie A or the Premier League in the future.