Jay Bothroyd joined Cardiff City from Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2008
Boss Dave Jones has warned Cardiff City hotshot Jay Bothroyd will not be sold on the cheap because their top-scorer is crucial to their promotion push.
Sunderland have reportedly bid for the 16-goal striker as the Premier League top-six side search for a striking replacement for departed Darren Bent.
Bothroyd can leave on a free in the summer when his Bluebirds deal expires.
"If they want to take him now, pay the rate that we think he is worth as that is what he is worth to us," said Jones.
Bothroyd is pivotal to second-placed Cardiff's bid for Premier league promotion and the 28-year-old is arguably the most influential frontman in the Championship.
The Bluebirds attacker, who is in contract talks to extend his three-year stay in Wales, is enjoying the best season of his career and has been linked with top-flight moves to Sunderland, Newcastle United and Birmingham City in the January transfer window.
His strike in Cardiff's thrilling 4-2 triumph over promotion rivals Watford on Saturday was his 14th league goal of the season.
Bothroyd's impressive form earned him a shock call from England boss Fabio Capello for England's 2-1 friendly defeat to France at Wembley in November.
Bothroyd's injury in Cardiff's Championship play-off final defeat to Blackpool at the of last season was pivotal in that game as Jones' men lost their targetman and lost belief.
Michael Chopra says Cardiff have 'no excuses' in their top-flight promotion bid
So Jones is keen to keep the former Arsenal trainee as although Cardiff boast a strike-force of Craig Bellamy, Michael Chopra and Andy Keogh, Bothroyd's role in his side is unique.
And Chopra himself admits: "It is very important we keep Jay.
"There are a lot of clubs that are coming in for him but it is down to him, we're just hopeful that we can keep him."
Bothroyd's goals, physical presence and link-up play could prove to be the difference between winning promotion - and the subsequent estimated £90m Premier League jackpot - or not in a defining season for the Cardiff manager.
"We've had plenty of enquiries from a number of different clubs for a number of our players." conceded Jones.
"And it is what a player worth to you?
"Where I get a little confused is people think that if his contract is up in six months, then his value is worth less.
"If you need the player now, the value is still the same. If you don't want to pay the asking price, just wait six months and you could get him for nothing. Simple.
"If any club wants him or any player here then they will have to pay what the club feel is the right price as I've got to then go out and replace him.
"It's no good me telling another manager 'I've just lost my player because he is out of contract in six months so give me your player.' It doesn't work that way.
Cardiff City 4-2 Watford
"So if we don't want to sell him, we won't sell him. We're trying to build a squad here."
Bothroyd returned from seven weeks out due to hamstring trouble against Watford on Saturday with another impressive display.
And alongside Chopra and Bellamy in a star-studded strike-force, Bothroyd helped demolish Watford in a devastating 16-minute spell.
He set-up one for Chopra and scored another to fire Cardiff back into the Championship's automatic promotion places on goal difference.
Jones has transformed Bothroyd from a journeyman into an international striker since his £300,000 switch to Cardiff, Bothroyd's eighth club, from Wolverhampton Wanderers in August 2008.
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