Exactly a year ago today Sam Cosgrove signed a contract extension tying him to Pittodrie until summer 2022.
Viewed 12 months on, tying up the striker’s long-term future was a masterstroke from the Aberdeen board.
It would now take a multi-million-pound bid to force the Dons’ hand to sell a player who cost just £25,000 in January 2018.
That could be tested this month as Middlesbrough, Derby County and Stoke are all tracking the 23-year-old.
Prolific scoring does not go unnoticed and Aberdeen are braced for any approach or bid from England for Cosgrove this month.
McInnes hailed the role head of recruitment Russ Richardson played in highlighting the then-unknown Carlisle United reserve player.
He also acknowledged the Dons and the club’s coaching staff for giving Cosgrove the platform to thrive.
But ultimately it is the player, who netted 32 goals in 2019, who is responsible for becoming one of the hottest strikers in Scotland.
McInnes said: “Sam came to a club that could make him stronger, better and more confident.
“All my staff have played a part in that.
“My head of recruitment, Russ Richardson, also deserves so much praise for identifying Sam.
“When Russ watched Sam he liked how he received the ball and liked how he moved.
“But ultimately Sam’s rise is not down to Russ, the staff or myself.
“It is Sam who deserves the most for actually making the most of his opportunity. He relished the opportunity at Aberdeen and played the biggest part himself.”
Officially Cosgrove netted 32 goals in 2019 but the striker also netted a further two just days after penning his new deal.
He scored both goals in Aberdeen’s 2-0 friendly win over United Arab Emirates’ side Dibba Al-Hisn in a friendly in Dubai last January.
Cosgrove suffered a shaky start to his time at Aberdeen when sent off in his debut against Celtic on February 25 2018.
He would have to wait 10 months since signing for his first goal when netting a double in a 4-1 defeat of St Mirren in October.
That December he hit the goal trail, netting in five straight games to bag seven goals.
McInnes insists they were looking for an alternative to prolific striker Adam Rooney. That December proved they had found one.
Aberdeen then moved quickly to tie him up on a long-term deal beyond the contract that ran until summer 2020.
McInnes said: “We were looking for an alternative striker to Adam Rooney who we could work with and try to make better.
“Jayden Stockley had obviously been with us but we knew we could maybe sell him back into England.
“Jayden was maybe getting a bit frustrated that he wasn’t always playing ahead of Adam.
“We wanted somebody a bit different with a bit of size.
“When we first signed him that was something we spoke about but also to not be too dependent on his size in and around the box, to be a sharper striker and concentrate more on movement, positioning and anticipation rather than just letting the ball hit your head.
“So that if teams sit in at home and want to defend their box, we have a striker there we can put in the box.
“Sam has learned to use his size a lot better since being here.
“He has relished the opportunity.”
Cosgrove’s prolific scoring streak quickly caught the imagination of the Aberdeen supporters.
They began chanting “Sam Cosgrove Ballon d’Or” at games in recognition of the successor to Rooney, who hit 20-plus goals for three successive season.
Cosgrove has already smashed in 20 goals this season and became the first Aberdeen player to reach that milestone since Duncan Shearer in 1992.
He was denied the opportunity to add to that tally by a two-game ban for the final two games before the winter shutdown for a challenge on Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer.
Aberdeen appealed the straight red, arguing Cosgrove clearly won the ball, but the red and the ban were upheld.
McInnes said: “There is no doubt that once Sam became really accepted by the supporters that meant so much to him.
“For any young player, if they know the supporters, the staff the players and the manager are behind him it means so much.
“But particularly to know the supporters are right behind you because you can respond to that.
“Sam has certainly responded.”