Dons boss Derek McInnes today hailed Kenny McLean’s commitment since signing a long-term deal with Norwich City.
Midfielder McLean, 26, is in contention to earn a third Scotland cap in tonight’s friendly away to Hungary.
McLean signed a three-and-a-half year deal with the Canaries in January and was loaned back to the Reds for the rest of the current campaign.
McInnes insists there was no way McLean, who was out of contract this summer, would ever let up for the Reds despite having his long-term future secured.
McInnes said: “If anybody even had a had a hint of even suggesting Kenny was going to down tools because his future was settled, they don’t know him.
“Kenny has been a driving force for us.
“He has been key for us over a period of time and will continue to be that over the remaining games of the season.”
Fellow Dons Scott McKenna and Ryan Christie are also in contention to face the Hungarians tonight.
Both Christie and McKenna have earned one cap each.
McKenna started in the 1-0 defeat by Costa Rica at Hampden on Friday for his debut cap while Christie was an unused substitute.
When McLean returns from international duty later this week he will be set to make his 138th consecutive appearance for Aberdeen – against St Johnstone at Pittodrie.
That run of appearances stretches back to the home leg v KF Shkendija at the start of the 2015/16 season.
McLean is sixth on the all-time list of consecutive Aberdeen appearances.
However, that run will end with the Scottish Cup semi-final against Motherwell on Saturday April 14 as the midfielder is suspended for the Hampden clash.
McInnes landed McLean from St Mirren in a £300,000 move in January 2015.
It was the largest transfer outlay under McInnes until the Reds paid £400,000 to land striker Stevie May from Preston North End last summer.
McInnes said: “From the boy who signed from St Mirren to the boy who will be leaving us at the end of the season there has been a huge improvement in Kenny.
“In his overall game, his maturity and his leadership qualities.
“It was very important for us to keep Kenny for the rest of the season.
“That was always our intention.
“We got the added bonus that we managed to bring some money back in but it was even more important we secured Kenny for the rest of the campaign.”
The conundrum for McInnes is just how does he replace a Scotland international like McLean who has become so influential and consistent?
McLean has netted eight goals for the Reds this season
“That is the challenge,” he said.
“We had to try and replace Niall McGinn, Jonny Hayes, Ryan Jack, Ash Taylor and Peter Pawlett last summer – boys that had been a big part of what we had been over the years.
“That is the nature of the game.
“It is naive to think we can hold on to all our best players all the time.
“When players become internationals they are difficult to replace like for like.
“You have got to try to adjust and make signings that you think can help bridge the gap and in time they become the players that have left.
“Kenny plays every week and he has racked up so many consecutive games, so we will miss his influence.
“The challenge is always ongoing when you lose good players to then go and bring someone in that we can afford and who can work to try to get to that level again.”