Tony Mowbray is hoping David Wheater can be persuaded to stay with Middlesbrough.
The new Boro boss is already aware of Wheater's contract situation, which could see him leave the club at the end of the season on a Bosman transfer.
Many have likened Wheater to Mowbray - who himself was a product of the club's youth system in the 1980s.
Now Mowbray admits that persuading the 23-year-old central defender to stay with the club is one of his top priorities.
"I hope he will be an important part [of the club's future]," Mowbray said.
"The contractual situation is what it is with David and it's not something I've looked at. But I have spoken to him and told him how much I appreciate his talent.
"I like what I see and hopefully we can resolve the situation as soon as possible.
"He's a big asset for the club and we need to try and protect that asset, but if we do have to let him go we must make sure we get some value.
"Talented players deserve to play right at the top of the tree, and when we are struggling at the bottom of the Championship who are we to stand in his way?
"But all I can do is express my appreciation of his talent and hope that he sees an opportunity to give me and the club time to achieve where he wants to be playing at.
"I can see already in the first few days he's very commanding and he knows his job.
"Everybody tells me he went through a sticky patch last year, but he looks on the ball to me and very confident and assured.''