SPANISH Second Division club Real Betis are expected to decide early next week whether to table an offer for Hearts winger Jamie Walker. Tynecastle sources said last night that they had had no contact from the Seville club, but reports in Spain have said that Betis manager Pepe Mel has identified the right winger as a prime target for this transfer window.
Former West Brom boss Mel has had scouts at several Hearts games this season, including last week’s Edinburgh derby, in which Walker scored his team’s equaliser in the 1-1 draw.
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Betis, who are fifth in the second flight after being relegated from La Liga last season, are due to have a financial meeting on Monday that will decide whether to bid for the 21-year-old – and how much to offer if they do go ahead.
A report on Spanish website elgoldigital.org said that Walker was “destined to become one of Britain’s best players in a few years”. Headlined “A Complete Unknown For The Green And White Attack”, the report described Walker
as a right winger with a lot of goals.
“All the team’s play goes through him, and his quality stands out in a league where physical power predominates over team work.”
That might be an over-the-top assessment of the role played by Walker in Hearts’ unbeaten run this season, and an underestimation of team-mates such as Morgaro Gomis, Prince Buaben and Sam Nicholson. But there was no doubting the quality of his first-half strike against Hibernian, and Hearts may face a fight to hold on to a player who signed a three-year extension to his contract last summer.
Meanwhile, new Dutch loan signing Género Zefuik has received international clearance after his move from
Groningen, and is desperate to play some part in today’s league match at Dumbarton. “I hope to play a lot of games and score a lot of goals here,” the 24-year-old said on the Hearts website. “If I’m told I’m starting against Dumbarton then I’m fit and ready to go.
“I’m a big man. My qualities are that I can hold the ball and let players come to me. I can score goals – that’s me.
“I spoke to Soufian El Hassnaoui on the phone before coming here and also Mark de Vries,” Zefuik continued.
“He said it’s a very good club with good fans, everybody here is very good and they have respect for everybody here. He talked to me and said if you can go then you should go.”
Dumbarton are the only club other than Hibernian to take points from Hearts in the Championship so far, having drawn their previous home game against Robbie Neilson’s side.
“I played right-back in the first game against Dumbarton down there and then I played centre-back against them at Tynecastle,” Hearts defender Jordan McGhee said. “They sat in down at Dumbarton and were hard to break down. When they came to Tynecastle they came out a bit and we caught them a few times on the counter-attack.”
Hearts won that home game 5-1, and are now just three goals away from the half-century for the league campaign. At the same time, their goals-against column has yet to go into double figures, something of which McGhee is understandably proud. “Nine goals is great,” he continued. “That’s a credit to Robbie, who’s taken the defenders away and done individual work with them throughout the season. Just the basics – cross balls into the box that you need to deal with and one v ones. It’s really helpful and it’s paying off.
“It seems to be working, so long may it continue. Of course you take pride in the record. Alim Ozturk’s tackle in the last minute against Hibs is just as good as a goal for a defender. When you do something well, everyone else praises you.
“[The unbeaten run] is something we need to try and keep going. Obviously it’s a great record, but we can’t take it for granted. We don’t want to slip up. There is a dogged determination but also a desire to win games. Through the management, coaching and video analysis we’re doing during the week, it pays off.”
While McGhee can play at full-back as well as in the heart of defence, both he and Neilson see his future at centre-half. Still only 18, he has yet to agree a deal to stay at Tynecastle beyond the expiry of his present contract, but he insisted he was in no hurry to sort matters out.
“I’ve not spoken about it in a while – I’m just concentrating on trying to get back in the team. My contract is up in the summer, but it’s not a concern at all. I’m just getting on with my football just now. That will take care of itself.”
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