DEREK McINNES says he would ‘love’ to keep Ryan Christie at Aberdeen for another year but admits it’s up to him and Celtic where his future will ultimately lie.

The 22-year-old has been on loan at Pittodrie for a year now, firstly for the second part of last season before retuning once again after Brendan Rodgers agreed for him to seek more game time in the North East.

Christie currently has 18 months left on his deal with the SPFL Premiership champions and would have a year after the summer to fight his way into the Celtic team and earn a new deal. However, he has arguably spent more time away from Glasgow than there since he joined back in 2015 due to an initial return to Inverness Caledonian Thistle and his spells in Aberdeen.

In 22 games this season the forward has scored three goals while being one of the most creative forces in the side currently sitting second in the table. And while McInnes revealed the conversation about Christie staying long term with him hasn’t yet been discussed, he has not ruled out the possibility of it becoming a reality.

“In an ideal world I’d love to keep working with him but it’s not something that’s been spoken about. Celtic and Ryan are in the driving seat with that,” he said.

“We’ve just got him for the remaining part of the campaign but if there was any encouragement that it would be a possibility it’s obviously something I’d be keen on. Whether it’s doable or not I don’t know.

“It’s always been something that’s hung about successful Old Firm teams. Similar to myself hanging about with Rangers without every being a regular but you hang about for those Champions League games and Scottish Cup finals to be involved.

“But is it to the detriment of your career? There’s that argument as well. It’s a fine balance really for being a squad player at a bigger club.”

One player who knows just what it’s like to struggle to make a mark on the Celtic team only to find salvation in Aberdeen is Gary Mackay-Steven. The winger spent two-and-a-half years in Glasgow but struggled to rekindle the form or consistent run of games that earned him a move from Dundee United in the first place.

Since leaving his deal at Parkhead early and heading up the A90, the 27-year-old has felt reinvigorated at being a main part of the team rather than looking in from the outside.

“It was a decision I needed to make,” said Mackay-Steven, who only last week was on holiday with Christie and Stuart Armstrong in New York. “The gaffer got in touch here and I owe him a lot because I jumped at it, really. I knew Aberdeen had been on the up in the last few years and he had been a big part of that, putting together a great squad here and I wanted to be part of that and come and challenge.

“I felt I could come and be on that rise with Aberdeen. I’m very happy to be here, it’s a great squad of players, a great place to be, the training is great. I’m happy.

“I don’t need to tell Ryan anything. It’s literally just go back and perform as best you can.

“Work as hard as you can every session and never have self doubt. Ryan has shown he has great ability and, if you always have confidence in that and you play freely, you know that it will come out. Whatever he decides to do, he’ll be just fine and show what a good player that he is.

“Selfishly, you want to be playing with good players and Ryan is great. Of course, we’d all love him to stuck around, but it’s entirely his opportunity and his decision.

“I’m sure he’ll do well whatever he decides.”

As the door is left ajar for Christie if and Celtic so choose to use it, McInnes has resigned himself to the fact Kenny McLean won’t be performing a U-turn at the end of the campaign. The former St Mirren midfielder told the Aberdeen manager last month that he won’t be renewing his contract in the summer, with it being rumoured a potential move to Rangers being his eventual destination.

“I speak with Kenny every other day and it’s not something I’m looking to broach again,” he said. “We need to move on and we’re preparing. We always try to look two windows ahead of ourselves if we can and try to divvy the money up we have to play with. We are preparing for life without Kenny.

“I’m planning for Kenny to be here until the end of the season. We have 16 league games and hopefully four Scottish Cup games to negotiate and I’m hoping and expecting him to be here. You don’t want to lose any of your key players. We fought hard last year to keep Jonny Hayes in January because we felt it was important.

“No-one wants to lose key players in January. You see it in the top flight where clubs will panic and pay way over the odds in January, but we never got any offer for Jonny that made us think that way. We were keen for him to stay and help us to try and win a Scottish Cup and finish second again and into Europe. Other than winning the Scottish Cup, he played his part in doing that with the understanding he might move in the summer, which happened.

“I think he’ll be big shoes to fill. I’d think that for any player who plays week-in, week-out for us in a team which finishes second and gets to cup finals. Kenny is also an international now and he might be one who people really appreciate only when he is not there. That happens all of the time. I see the quality in the boy.”