CELTIC failed in “half-a-dozen” bids for Hearts’ versatile defender Aaron Hickey.
Former Tynecastle boss and director of foortball Craig Levein made the startling revelation on BBC Sportsound.
Eighteen-year-old Hickey, a former Hoops youth player, is in the final year of his contract at the Edinburgh outfit and has attracted interest from Bayern Munich, Bologna, Manchester City and Aston Villa.
The relegated Gorgie club could be forced to sell the £1.5million-rated Scotland Under-21 international as they prepare for life in the Championship.
Levein admitted: “Celtic tried to buy him back half-a-dozen times and that just got knocked back.
“He’s got really good defensive qualities. He likes defending, which is a rare thing these days.
“Aaron might end up going back into the midfield area. I think he’d be a fantastic holding midfield player with his great awareness of danger and his ability to get out of tight situations with the ball at his feet.”
Hickey has made 33 appearances for the club, scoring once, and faced Celtic in the Scottish Cup Final last year where two goals from Odsonne Edouard won the silverware for the Parkhead men to complete the phenomenal treble treble.