Is Orlando's Chris Mueller moving early to Hibernian? Oscar Pareja pumps the brakes

Chris Mueller's days with Orlando City SC are numbered, that much we know after the winger signed a pre-contract with Hibernian of the Scottish Premier League. He’s scheduled to join his new club in January once his contract with Orlando expires in December.

But could Mueller be heading to Scotland sooner?

There are reports claiming the two sides are in discussions about a potential move in this transfer window. Hibs clearly would benefit from having their new signing in for preseason, and the Lions would be due some compensation.

To add to that speculation, Mueller wasn’t in the matchday 18-man roster or on Orlando’s injury list for the Lions’ 5-0 loss to New York City FC last Sunday.

But Orlando head coach Oscar Pareja is planning on having Mueller for the remainder of the 2021 MLS season, he said during a press conference Wednesday.

“I don’t hear that he’s looking for an early exit,” Pareja said. “I have not heard that, or at least it’s something that can be normal. But at this point, what we have is a player who has a contract until December and we need him here and we will try to get the best out of this opportunity to keep counting on Chris.”

Mueller started and played 73 minutes in a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Union on July 22, a day after his pre-contract was announced.

Mueller originally joined Orlando as the No. 6 overall pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas. Since then, he’s posted 20 goals and 22 assists in 96 games (63 starts) for the club.

He’s a key cog of the Lions' attack alongside Nani and Daryl Dike, with the US men's national team forward also been the subject of numerous rumors of a move overseas.

And while we know where he’ll play in the future, Pareja said Mueller continues to be in his plans, but stopped short of guaranteeing him in his starting XI when the Lions meet Atlanta United on Friday night at Exploria Stadium (8 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes).

“What I see is a player who is here ready to train and if I see if he’s able and ready to compete, I will line him up if he is,” Pareja said. “We learn from the coaching part and the directors that Chris is going to move on with his project next year, but until then he’s an Orlando City player and we will take him that way.”