Stoke City boss Tony Pulis hopes he can convince Ryan Shawcross to commit his future to the Potters but admits he will be powerless to keep his captain if one of the Premier League's top teams come in with a realistic bid.
Shawcross, 25, still has more than 18 months to run on his contract but the alarm bells will ring if he approaches the last year of his deal without an extension being agreed.
"We took Ryan as a young lad and he has grown with the football club," Pulis said. "He has been fantastic for us, and the club has been fantastic for him as well.
"We're hoping and praying Ryan will be a Stoke player for the rest of his life. But, if a top-three, top-four club came in, and they paid the money, there is no way in a million years we would be able to prevent him from going.
"It is a natural progression for every sportsman to play at the top level. If that came along, and the deal was right, it's very difficult to stop players from going to top clubs now. We know that."
Pulis is confident that the club's owners, the Coates family, will again back him generously in his efforts to build a quality squad at the Britannia Stadium.
And that means holding on to a player who is very much part of the backbone of his squad.
The Welsh manager has made it clear he would favour a quick resolution, adding that he wouldn't want the matter dragging into next season.
"We would hope not, especially with Ryan," he said. "That's why we're talking to him, to get it done. You hope it gets sorted out nice and quickly but we recognise and realise there is still a lot of time for it to be sorted out, not just weeks and months.
"We're really happy with him. If none of them (the top clubs) come in, we want him to be part of this club for the next five or six years. If we do a deal, there will be no-one more pleased than myself. But it has to be right for the club and for Ryan.
"He has been a fantastic player for us and it has to be right for the player. He's a fantastic lad and he has to do the best he possibly can for himself and his family.
" But I don't honestly think the club would do anything but look after Ryan because they have fantastic respect for him, as a lad, not just a footballer."