DEREK McInnes has stressed that Aberdeen are determined to hold on to Scott McKenna in the January transfer window - but will need to consider cashing in on in the Scotland defender in the next 18 months.

The north-east club have rejected multi-million pounds bids for the Scotland centre half, who has been linked with Blackburn Rovers and Burnley in recent weeks, from Celtic, QPR, Nottingham Forest, Stoke City and Aston Villa in the past couple of seasons.

And McInnes, speaking from the Pittodrie club's winter training camp at Jebel Ali outside of Dubai, stated that offers for the 23-year-old wouldn't be welcomed this month.

The Dons manager believes the 13-times capped defender's value will increase substantially if he helps the national team reach Euro 2020 and then represents his country in this summer's finals.

“We don't want to sell him," he said. “I don’t think there will ever be a time when it’s good for us, on the football side, to sell McKenna.

“To maximise value, clearly the club will need to look at it in the next 18 months. But I don’t agree we need to sell Scott McKenna in this window. He still has two years to run on his contract and I’d say it’s once it gets past that stage.

"It’s been relatively quiet on that front. Like any manager or club I would like to deal with any offers for key players early in the window. But while they call it the January window most offers only come in the last few days. Panic sets in and clubs start to show their hand.

"If someone comes in for Scott we just need to react to that and just try to deal with it the best we can. That will be up to Dave (new Aberdeen chairman Cormack) and the board.

"I still think there is enough interest in him. I still think people see his qualities. He has had a couple of injuries, but anybody looking at his performances over the last month or so would agree he has been different class. He has actually been fantastic.

“His performances have been very steady. They have been up there as good as they ever have been. Hopefully he is over his injuries now and he can concentrate on that level of performance because when he plays like he has done for me in the last wee while then there is no doubt he’s on the radar of other clubs.”

McInnes added: “I’m hoping Scotland qualify for a major championships and he’s part of that.

“Playing for Scotland isn’t something we take for granted, and I don’t know for certain what Steve Clarke thinks, but for me he’s a first-choice now for the country.

“So if McKenna keeps doing what he’s doing for us, and goes into the play-off game in good form, then hopefully he’s part of the team that takes the country to a major championships. Then he can show himself in that type of company. That’s what we’re hoping.”

McKenna angered Aberdeen fans when he put in a transfer request before a Europa League qualifier against Rijeka in Croatia back in August just before the close of the summer window.

But McInnes is confident the player is content at Pittodrie and will continue to perform well if he stays until the end of the 2019/20 campaign.

“He seems less agitated, he seems happier and is smiling more," he said. “He is still driven too. He is driven and an example to any of my players. He doesn’t ever want to waste any training time. He deserves his reward for that and he’ll get his reward."