Aberdeen skipper Joe Lewis hailed the attitude of in-demand defender Scott McKenna and believes the 22-year-old has it in him to take his career to the next level.
McKenna played the full 90 minutes in Rijeka on Thursday night, fresh from a week of speculation about his future at Pittodrie.
The Scotland international handed in a transfer request prior to the win over Hearts last weekend and had bids from Queens Park Rangers and Sheffield Wednesday rebuffed on the eve of the game this week.
There had been some doubt as to whether McKenna would start at the Stadion Rujevica but once Thursday came around and no satisfactory bid was received, his place was set.
Lewis, who has played behind McKenna for the duration of the defender’s time in red, has given some words of advice to his colleague. And he reckons McKenna has it within himself to propel his career on to an even bigger stage.
Lewis said: “You would never have known with the way Scott played.
“Scott’s attitude is one of his main positives.
“Things don’t affect him and I think you could see that with his performance in Rijeka – he can be proud of the way he played.
“I am amazed there hasn’t been a lot more interest in Scott.
“For me, as a defender he is one of the best I have played with.
“There is no doubt there will be loads of interest in Scott going forward. He is a great lad and a complete professional.
“I have spoken to Scott about the situation but that conversation will remain in-house. He doesn’t need me to tell him how to act.
“He is a sensible lad and he will do what is best for him to take his career to the next level.”
There was a sense of disappointment around the Dons’ performance on Thursday night, given the manner of the cheap penalty given away and the late second goal from Robert Muric which makes Aberdeen’s task harder in the second leg.
The last time the two teams met in 2015 the Dons had a 3-0 lead to bring back to Pittodrie and a 2-2 draw ensured their progress to the third qualifying round.
Goalkeeper Lewis felt the result was ultimately harsh on the visiting side.
Lewis added: “I felt we played well and 2-0 was a harsh scoreline on us.
“We need to make sure when we get them back to Pittodrie we put on a performance that can get us the result we need to get through the tie.
“There is no time to think of it as an injustice.
“Yes, it is disappointing but it is half-time and we take them back to Pittodrie next Thursday.
“If we can create a good atmosphere there and we can get the first goal, I think that would give us a real momentum going forward, especially with the crowd behind us.”
The Dons have little time to dwell on Thursday night’s disappointment, with a trip to St Mirren awaiting tomorrow.
The victory over Hearts ensured their Premiership campaign started with three points and there can be little allowance for a hangover from the Euro disappointment in midweek.
Lewis said: “It is important we keep our league run going.
“We need to keep that positivity and we can’t beat ourselves up too much over Thursday.
“As disappointed as we are, we need to come back out and show what a good team we are.
“We will have a look at St Mirren. They will be difficult opposition.
“It is difficult to have so many games and so many different types of games early. But hopefully we have the squad to cope that can adapt and help us play in different styles to get past each obstacle.
“The next one is St Mirren and we know they have a new manager and a number of new players. But we have to go there and try to stamp our authority on the game.”