Securing £3m for Scott McKenna could put the bid to earn a similar sum from reaching the Europa League group stages in jeopardy.
The Scotland international’s importance to Aberdeen was brutally underlined when withdrawn from the squad to face Motherwell, so he could travel south for talks with Nottingham Forest.
With McKenna at the heart of the defence, the Reds had conceded just once in a six-game winning streak.
In the Scotland centre-back’s absence, the Reds shipped three goals in the first 22 minutes.
It was disastrous preparation for the European tie with Sporting Clube de Portugal in Lisbon tomorrow.
The nature of the one-legged format in the qualifiers ensures a side with a tight defence – and pace on the counter-attack, as Aberdeen have – could produce a shock win.
Yet the Reds looked ragged and indecisive in defence in that first half against Motherwell.
A McKenna-less rearguard will still be under intense pressure in Lisbon, despite the Portuguese giants being hit by a Covid-19 outbreak.
Nine players are ruled out for tomorrow’s clash as they are self-isolating after testing positive.
Regardless of the absentees, you can guarantee Sporting will still have quality in attack to punish any mistakes.
Aberdeen are just two wins away from qualification to the group stages, which secures £2.7m in prize payments. Each win in the groups secures more than half a million, with a draw worth £175,000.
Yet Aberdeen’s fight to reach the groups will have to be done without McKenna.
The £3m paid up front by Forest will smash the previous club record fee, which stood at £1.75m paid by Coventry for Eoin Jess in 1996.
Aberdeen could ultimately land as much as £5m for McKenna with add-ons. However, the key word here is “could”. There are no guarantees those clauses will be met.
There will be a lingering sense of frustration that McKenna went for £3m when the Reds turned down £7m from Aston Villa on summer transfer deadline day in 2018.
It was too late in the window for a replacement and the Reds hoped his price would rise. They also hoped McKenna’s presence would help secure some silverware.
Neither have happened. Now, the transfer market has collapsed due to Covid-19 and McKenna has two years less on his deal than in 2018.
Hopefully Aberdeen can reach the groups and effectively double up with the £3m up front for McKenna and £2.7m in prize money. Without the Scotland centre-back, though, that quest becomes more difficult.
Is the deal Aberdeen have agreed with Nottingham Forest for Scott McKenna a good one for the club? Our panel discussed the fee and add-ons on this week’s Northern Goal podcast:
You feel for Aberdeen fans missing out on huge European trip
The coronavirus pandemic has denied Aberdeen supporters the chance to witness the glamour tie at Sporting.
In recent years Dons fans have amassed in their thousands overseas for memorable away ties against Rijeka, Groningen and Real Sociedad.
They would have rocked the Jose Alvalade stadium. Sadly, the return of fans domestically has also been put on hold due to rising Covid-19 cases.
It has to be a case of safety first, watching football later.