A club-record Rotherham United bid could yet turn out to be enough to prise star striker Lee Gregory away from Millwall.
The Championship Millers have so far offered £1.2 million for the hitman who bagged 27 goals in League One last season.
The South Londoners have rejected it but are admitting for the first time that their prized asset may leave.
Rotherham chairman Tony Stewart is prepared to back new manager Alan Stubbs in the transfer market with big money.
“There’s no doubt we’re going deep into the pocket. We’ve got to be competitive,” the owner told The Star.
“I see us spending more on a player than we ever have before this summer. We’re going to spend more this season than we did last season. It’s necessary if we are to progress as we want to.”
A big advantage for Rotherham is that Gregory, aged 27, is from South Yorkshire and would be happy to return to the area. The Lions want more than £2m but could be forced to the negotiating table if he intimates he is interested in a switch to AESSEAL New York Stadium.
Millwall boss Neil Harris said: “Rotherham have bid for Lee, who had an exceptional season last year. There is going to be interest in our players, because we have got very good ones.
“I don’t think you can guarantee anyone is anywhere at the start of the season if someone really wants someone.
“I want Lee to stay as part of our squad but every player in the modern game has a value. Our players will be no different.”
Walsall hot-shot Tom Bradshaw is also on the Millers’ wanted list and a bid - which beats the club’s previous highest outlay of around £400,000 on Jonson Clarke-Harris - has been submitted to the Saddlers
Stewart is determined to help Stubbs build a squad capable of pushing for a place in the top 10 after two successive battles against relegation in the second tier.
“We’ve had two near-misses and we’ve got to move on from that,” Stewart added. “I’ve always said if you’re positive with your head and negative with your wallet, then you’re going to fail.
“We’ve got to put the money in to make sure we can compete, even though it’s a difficult league. We know that. We’ve been in it for two seasons. I think there is a formula that we’re using that can make us more competitive than in the last two seasons. That’s the plan and that’s what we’re going for.
“In terms of obstacles, there are three things that you have to do - make sure that the club are prepared to let the player leave, that you can get the deal that you want from the player and the agent and that he wants to come to Rotherham.”
Gregory has a year left on his deal at the New Dean and Millwall are thought to have an option to extend it by another 12 months.
He moved to South London in June 2014 from non-league Halifax Town for £250,000.
Brighton midfielder Jake Forster-Caskey is set to turn down the chance to join the Millers.
Last night, Rotherham came from a goal down to beat Miedz Legnica 2-1 in Poland, with goals from Jerry Yates (penalty) and Richie Smallwood.
Former Millers midfielder Chris Maguire has agreed a new one-year deal with Oxford United.