Falkirk manager Peter Houston insists Craig Sibbald would already be a Premiership player were the Bairns were not entitled to a six-figure compensation fee for the midfielder.
The out-of-contract Sibbald, who has been linked with Aberdeen and Hearts in the past, has returned to pre-season training with Houston’s side, with clubs reluctant to pay in excess of £100,000 for the 22-year-old.
Even though Houston would love to have the playmaker available for next season’s promotion push, the former Dundee United boss insists Sibbald’s talent is wasted at Championship level.
A new contract offer from Falkirk remains on the table and Houston insists he has sympathy for Sibbald as the player weighs up his future.
Houston said: “Sibbs is back in training with us, he’s out of contract but if somebody wants him they’ll have to pay money.
“He’s probably got a decision to make over the next couple of weeks.
“It’s awkward one and I feel for him. I’ve sat down and given him advice, and he asks, ‘what would you do?’
“I also think he needs to challenge himself at a higher level.
“Personally, a manager always wants to keep his best players but Sibbs has excelled in this division for a number of years now and he deserves a move.
“I’m surprised nobody has taken a chance on him but in Scotland there is not a lot of money going about.
“I can understand why people would maybe wait till next year when they could get him for nothing.
“I think if he was free right now with no compensation, he would be playing in the Premiership next season. If I was a Premiership manager, I would take him.
“We’re giving him facilities and first team training just now and he might end up signing for the year.”
However, Houston insists he has warned Sibbald not to feel sorry for himself if the player does re-sign.
He added: “What I’ve spoken to Sibbs about is that if he does come back – I don’t want a disappointed player.
“I want somebody who is hungry to take us up to the Premiership.
“He would be no use to me if nobody comes in for him and he does not really want to sign.
“He is due a move, he has done enough to deserve a move because he has been absolutely superb for me for three years.
“But if he stays he has to be superb for a fourth year – then next summer he could move for nothing.”