The dilemma Portsmouth could face when coming to sell Brighton and Stoke target Matt Clarke
It’s a case of if, not when Matt Clarke will inevitably depart Fratton Park this summer.
Pompey's failed League One promotion bid means their prized asset will leave the club to fulfil his ambition of playing further up the Football League ladder.
Named in the PFA and Sky Bet teams of the season and tipped to play for England by team-mate Nathan Thompson, Clarke won’t be short of suitors.
Premier League side Brighton are the front runners, with new boss Graham Potter a huge admirer and someone who’s eager to get a move signed, sealed and delivered before it turns into a transfer saga.
Looking back 12 months, the column inches were filled by a number of such protracted moves.
Ronan Curtis’ name was first mentioned even before the 2017-18 season had ended, the lengthy pursuit of Mo Eisa failed to bear fruit, while Conor Chaplin's much-anticipated move to Coventry was only finalised a day before the summer transfer deadline closed.
Kenny Jackett is well aware of the need to avoid that with Clarke.
And the Pompey boss has already earmarked a date for when the centre-back’s future must be decided – whether it's at Fratton Park, the Amex or somewhere else.
Jackett wants his new-look squad assembled for the first day of pre-season on June 27 – ready to hit the ground running ahead of a renewed Championship charge.
But, on the flip side, that could mean the Blues failing to bank the absolute maximum fee they could for Clarke if his departure was to be prolonged.
Arguably as the best defender in League One, he'll be highly coveted by a bevy sides.
Along with favourites for his signature Brighton, Leeds, Stoke and Hull have also been credited with more than a passing, flirtatious look.
That could lead to a potential bidding war, with the figure Pompey banking potentially going up and up and up.
If that is the case then the Blues will have a decision to make – do they stick to their original date set or allow leeway for more offers to come in?
The business decision would be the latter.
Accruing the largest fee would clearly bolster the PO4 coffers and give Jackett a better war chest to go out and find a replacement and more.
Clarke’s departure will mean a significant void needs filling and that will come at a cost – either in wages, a fee, or both.
The caveat to that, though, is it could leave the Blues missing out on the names higher up their own shopping list.
Whether it's a free agent like Tom Lockyer or a centre-half under contract at another club who would command a fee, it's almost certain Pompey won’t be the only club looking at the target.
So the longer the Clarke transfer rumbles on, the shorter the options of players available will become.
Can the Blues risk not getting the best recruit possible in the hope of potentially generating more money for their best player from a bidding war?
It’s a dilemma Pompey will need to look at and make a judgement on soon – very soon.