Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn admits his dream of Jordan Henderson leading the club into European football may not materialise.
Henderson has caught the eye since bursting onto the scene at the Stadium of Light and Manchester United are believed to be keen on capturing the 20-year-old.
The Sunderland-born midfielder signed a new five-year contract this year but that has failed to end conjecture about a big-money bid for his services.
And Quinn, who holds lofty ambitions for Steve Bruce's team, admits he could be helpless in preventing Henderson from leaving the club should a "ridiculous" offer come in for his services.
Quinn said: "For me, the big ambition would be to see Jordan leading us into a big European match, whenever that could be. That would be the ultimate aim.
"But circumstances sometimes dictate you have to do things another way and I have to be totally open and honest with people and say that if a ridiculous offer does come in for Jordan, or any of our players, I have to weigh up losing the player to the money we will get and how we can spend it.
"I am not saying I want Jordan Henderson to go - far from it - but I am giving an example of the dilemmas that you can face.
"That is why we must be open. The games has changed, it is not like the old days when you could say 'this player is not going anywhere'."
Rumours have already circulated about the prospect of Henderson leaving the North East but no immediate move for the player seems likely.
Quinn knows the youngster has Sunderland's best interests at heart, a factor that has delighted the Black Cats chief.
And he is confident Henderson's maturity will see him fend off any underhand tactics designed at coaxing him to a bigger club.
Loves playing here
Quinn added: "Jordan has plenty of time on his side so we are not worried at this point.
"But other factors come into play like agents, tapping up, all sorts of different things.
"The one thing about Jordan is that he is an exceptional human being who has been reared impeccably, and I can't envisage a situation where that will all suddenly change.
"When Jordan was being linked with a few clubs, his father rang and told me 'this is nothing to do with us, Jordan just wants to play for Sunderland'.
"I had to tell him that of all the players at this club, Jordan really is the last one I am worried about. I know he loves playing here."