Keeper Joe Lewis is relishing the chance to play behind Scott McKenna again after the Dons retained the centre-back in the transfer window.
Aberdeen rejected a last-gasp £7 million bid from Championship side Aston Villa for the Scotland cap on transfer deadline day.
Although the English window had closed weeks earlier on August 9 for permanent additions, Villa boss Steve Bruce aimed to take McKenna in on loan until January before pushing through a permanent deal.
It was knocked back because the move didn’t meet the Reds’ valuation for the highly-rated 21-year-old.
Even if they had matched that valuation, such was the lateness of Villa’s move there would not have been enough time to replace McKenna, who is contracted until summer 2023.
Aberdeen also kicked a £3.5m bid from Celtic into touch during the summer window while Championship side Swansea also enquired about his availability.
While McKenna was in the centre of that storm of interest he was out injured with a hamstring tear.
Having missed the last four games, the defender has resumed full training this week and it is hoped he will return to action at St Johnstone on Saturday.
Lewis said: “Hats off to the club and the powers-that-be at the club that we have managed to keep hold of Scott and fend off the interest.
“From my point of view, from a defensive side and for the club it is great that it was turned down. Scott will be a welcome addition to the squad when he comes back.”
Dons boss Derek McInnes recently reaffirmed his belief that McKenna will eventually go for a “big ticket” move to the English Premier League.
Lewis, a former England squad call-up, is also convinced the centre-back will ultimately move to the top flight south of the border.
But first Lewis reckons the defender can continue to develop his game further at Pittodrie.
He said: “Scott is a fantastic player and there is no surprise that teams are linked with him. He is English Premier League quality, definitely.
“However he is a level-headed lad and knows he still has a lot of learning to do still.
“I am sure he will continue to develop.
“Playing first-team football here week in, week out will only help that as well.
“Scott is a great player and we are very lucky to have him.
“The longer we can keep him here the better it is for us. It was great to see we have knocked back that bid and hopefully we can keep him for as long as we can.” Aberdeen also rejected three bids from Championship Hull City for McKenna during the January transfer window, with the final offer in excess of £1 million.
Lewis, 30, reckons it is not only his footballing attributes that can pave a way to the richest league in world football, but also McKenna’s attitude.
He said: “What you see on the pitch is Scott’s physicality and his technical attributes.
“He is great in the air, he is strong and quick. Everyone can see that.
“However, he also has the perfect mentality to go right to the top.”
Being targeted by clubs and the possibility of big money moves, then having them rejected, could possibly affect a player’s focus.
Not McKenna. Lewis insists nothing has changed with the defender.
He said: “What we see from training and playing with Scott day in, day out is that he has not changed at all.
“His mindset has not changed. He still works hard.”
Such is McKenna’s rising reputation, it has become a matter of when, not if, he will flit from Pittodrie in a big-money move.
Boss McInnes recently admitted that could be as early as the January window if the price is right and there is enough time to replace him.
Is the speculation about McKenna’s future and clubs’ bids a subject of discussion in the dressing room?
“The lads will have a laugh and joke about it but no one gets sidetracked by anything like that,” explained Lewis.
“The most important person in that scenario is Scott – and nothing will faze Scott. He is a great professional and will give 100% whoever he plays for – whether that is Scotland or Aberdeen.”