Namely convincing talismanic captain Alex Mowatt to sign a new deal, with the Reds head coach having stressed the need to find a positive solution, while being confident that the club will try everything to keep him.
Mowatt’s deal expires in June and he is free to talk to other clubs, with the Reds also in ongoing dialogue with the 25-year-old over a new deal.
On the situation regarding Mowatt, who should be available for Sunday’s FA Cup tie with Tranmere following his spell in self-isolation after testing positive for Covid-19, Ismael said: “It is not only my (major) priority, but the club’s. I think for the club it is the most important deal to do in the next few weeks.
“He is a big part for our success. Alex knows as well that he has a big standing in the team and club. I think both sides want to stay together and I think we must find a solution.
“I am sure we will try everything to keep Alex. Alex is the face of the team and the club and the captain of the team.
“We are working on it. I phoned and spoke with him (on Wednesday) and this is now our best purpose.”
Meanwhile, Ismael has urged new Doncaster Rovers loan signing Elliot Simoes to use his time at the Keepmoat Stadium to improve his mentality after the out-of-favour winger joined the Reds’ neighbours on loan for the rest of the campaign.
Simoes featured just twice under Ismael, with his final game coming in the 3-0 loss at Cardiff on November 3 when he came off after just 40 minutes.
Ismael, who has cooled talk of a move for former Aston Villa winger Andre Green, added: “First, he has to play and he needs to improve his mentality to be more professional and to enjoy (it) for sure.
“It is maybe a chance for him to reflect on the last few months and now take the chance to prove his quality, but (also) develop his mentality and adapt more professionality (sic), which is what you need to be a footballer.”
Ismael – who has brought in Carlton Morris and Liam Kitching this week – confirmed that a desire to give extended chances to the club’s young players was behind the decision to allow Matty James to return to Leicester City and not attempt to bring him back to Oakwell for a third loan spell .
James has now joined Coventry for the rest of 2020-21.
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