Roy Hodgson today revealed Fulham have opened contract negotiations with Jimmy Bullard - but is refusing to guarantee the midfielder's future at Craven Cottage.
Bullard requested an extension to the two years left on his deal after helping Fulham stay in the Barclays Premier League last season but was told he must wait.
The 29-year-old midfielder approached the board for a second time in the wake of his England call-up in September and was given the same answer.
Hodgson reports the club's hand has been forced by Bullard's ongoing involvement with England and admits it may be difficult to retain him if a big offer is made next month.
"You don't want to lose your best players. He has a year-and-a-half left on his contract, and I hope he stays," he said.
"But I have to be realistic in that if a top player is in form and doing well then he will be coveted by the other clubs.
"I can't give stonewall guarantee that we'll be able to hold on to him. I hope we can, but we'll have to wait and see what happens in the transfer window."
So far, there have been no approaches for any Fulham players.
But Hodgson added: "I suppose the fact he's getting international recognition has forced the contract talks along.
"In the beginning, he was asked to show some patience and wait until the end of this year.
"Negotiations have opened up, and it's an ongoing process. I'm sure that we'll see a solution in the near future but I don't want to be put on the spot over the time frame."
Hodgson has made his recommendation to Fulham's board and is content to let them complete the talks with one of the club's prized assets.
"We've discussed Jimmy, but there are complicated issues involved - finance and money," he said.
"The board knows my feelings on the subject and they know Jimmy's feelings, so it's up to them to sort the matter out."
Bullard has endured a mixed season to date. His England call-up preceded a dip in form, but he was superb in last weekend's 1-1 draw with Manchester City.
"I'd like to think Jimmy is a better player now than last year. He puts in a lot more for the team in trying to defend," said Hodgson.
A five-match unbeaten run, which includes wins over Newcastle and Tottenham, has dispelled any doubts over Hodgson's own future.
Fulham sit ninth in the table, and Hodgson is enjoying his most secure spell since arriving at Craven Cottage nearly a year ago.
"I signed a two-and-a-half year contract when I came to the club," he recalled.
"That was 'nuanced' in that there was a different salary if the club had gone down, and it would have been reduced to a one-year contract had we gone down and not got back up.
"But it was a two-and-a-half year contract, given Premier League football - so I have a year-and-a-half left."