Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes accepts it is a challenge to retain top players ahead of clubs with bigger financial clout but it is a battle he is ready to face.
Scotland internationals Graeme Shinnie and Gary Mackay-Steven have contracts that expire at the end of the season and McInnes is desperate to retain both.
McInnes has had talks with both and underlined his desire to retain them.
However, skipper Shinnie and winger Mackay-Steven have been free to talk to any interested clubs from January 1, when the winter transfer window opened.
Bids of £7 million from Aston Villa and £3.5m from Celtic were rejected in the summer window for Reds defender Scott McKenna.
McInnes does not want to lose McKenna in January but realises a mammoth bid could ultimately force the issue for the Reds.
Ideally McInnes would like an answer from Shinnie and Mackay-Steven on their futures this month – so if it is bad news he can prepare for replacements.
However, he will not lay down a concrete deadline to his two stars.
Aberdeen will also be on red alert for further bids for Scotland international defender McKenna, one of the hottest prospects in the Premiership.
McInnes said: “They (Shinnie and GMS) know where we are, what we feel about them and where we stand.
“We are here for them, we want them and we enjoy working with them.
“I would give them the best contract I possibly could to stay because both of them have done well for me.
“But I cannot become too obsessed with it either because I have other players. I am hopeful both lads can weigh everything up.
“I have seen other key players leave here in the past and it hasn’t quite worked out for them elsewhere.
“I am sure both lads are intelligent enough to see the benefits of being here.
“But I also respect their decision to look at all other options.
“They are entitled to as they are set to go out of contract. We will be doing all we can to keep them here. But we have lost good players before and there is no point me feeling sorry for myself and stamping my feet.
“If it happens we need to get on with it.”
McInnes reckons Aberdeen have effectively become a victim of their own success as their players are now targeted by other teams. In recent seasons, former Pittodrie captain Ryan Jack switched to Rangers on a free after his contract expired.
Scotland international Kenny McLean moved to Norwich City last January but was loaned back to the Dons for the remainder of the season.
In 2017 winger Jonny Hayes joined Celtic in a £1.2m move.
That summer Jayden Stockley transferred to Exeter for £100,000. Preston this week signed Stockley, with the Dons landing a cash windfall of up to £150,000 due to a sell-on clause.
Prolific scorer Adam Rooney was transferred to Salford City in the English fifth tier in the summer while Anthony O’Connor moved to Bradford City.
McInnes said: “We’ll always lose players as a consequence of the team doing well.
“I totally understand. There are clubs in Scotland that can pay a lot more and we are on the border of the richest league in the world.
“It is about having the coping mechanisms and structures to deal with that and keep them as long as possible by creating an environment they don’t want to leave.
“If you were to ask any of my players who left, if they could have got the same financial rewards here, then they wouldn’t have wanted to move.”
The most pressing issue this month will likely be whether another club, or clubs, come in with bids for McKenna.
Defender McKenna, 22, is contracted until 2023 but is hot property.
McInnes said: “We understand that Scott will go at some point.
“Do I want that to be in January? No.”