HIBERNIAN could cash in on former York City striker Clayton Donaldson by selling him to Crewe Alexandra this summer.

Donaldson, 24, has only played a minute of the seven games since Mixu Paatelainen took over as Hibs manager on January 10 and is currently behind Stephen Fletcher, Colin Nish, Dean Shiels and Abdessalam Benjelloun in the pecking order for a starting place at Easter Road.

The former Hull City forward is contracted to the Edinburgh outfit until 2010 but Paatelainen might be prepared to let him return south of the border should Crewe follow up their rumoured interest last month with a transfer fee in the summer.

Crewe boss Steve Holland has refused to comment on whether Donaldson is a target and any loan or permanent deal would now have to wait until the end of the season when the international transfer window reopens.

Donaldson has scored six goals in 13 starts for Hibs this season, including a hat-trick against Kilmarnock and has insisted that he is unaware of any interest from Gresty Road.

He said: "I don't know anything about Crewe.

"I'm a Hibs player until anyone tells me otherwise and am focused on getting back in the team and doing a job for Hibs."

Should the Scottish Premier League club profit from a Donaldson departure, it would rub salt into old wounds at KitKat Crescent.

Donaldson scored 43 goals in two seasons for City but left on a free transfer last summer after signing a pre-contract agreement with Hibs halfway through the season.

Then manager John Collins took advantage of a little-known Bosman ruling loophole to avoid paying a transfer fee with out-of-contract players free to move to Scottish clubs at the age of 23 rather than 24, which applies to English teams.