If Bristol City want Stevenage winger Luke Freeman, they are going to have to pay for the privilege. City's hopes of signing the former Arsenal and Gillingham youngster on a free transfer were dealt a blow when he signed a new contract with relegated Stevenage.
Rather than risk losing their star player for nothing, the Hertfordshire club triggered a clause in his contract giving them the option of retaining the 22-year-old for a further 12 months.
League One City tabled a six-figure bid for the winger in January as part of manager Steve Cotterill's attempts to bolster a squad that was battling relegation. But the Robins refused to follow up their interest when their offer was rejected, preferring to wait until Freeman's contract expired at the end of last season rather than pay an inflated fee.
Cotterill remains in the market for goalscoring wingers and midfielders as he bids to forge a team capable of challenging for promotion back to the Championship.
And Freeman, who scored eight goals in League One last season, is a player who is still very much on the City manager's radar after he impressed against the Robins at Broadhall Way only last month.
Freeman is still widely expected to leave Stevenage this summer.