Eight things you should know about Hearts new boy Andraz Struna

Ian Cathro must decide whether Andraz Struna, pictured, will start ahead of Liam Smith at right-back. Picture: Hearts FC
Ian Cathro must decide whether Andraz Struna, pictured, will start ahead of Liam Smith at right-back. Picture: Hearts FC
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Heart of Midlothian confirmed their latest signing with the addition of Slovenian international Andraz Struna.

Ian Cathro wasted no time in making the 27-year-old defender his fourth January recruit. Struna has penned a contract until the end of the season, only a day after French midfielder Malaury Martin joined the club on a three-and-a-half year deal.

So what do you need to know about the new boy?

The Slovenian will try to fill the void left by Callum Paterson

Cathro was struck a massive blow when Paterson fell awkwardly in the club’s 4-0 defeat of Kilmarnock, subsequently being ruled out for 10 months. The roving right-back gives the club so much drive and impetus from the right-back position, as well the quality he offers from attacking set pieces.

Struna told the club website: “I’m an attacking full back and I think I’ll be good fit based on the ideas presented to me by the club and the head coach”.

He is a forward-thinking full-back who is positive in possession, aggressive out of it, adding athleticism to wide areas. With the onus on full-backs providing width at full-back he will be adept at fitting in to the system.

He will excite fans

As well as his positivity in taking the ball forward, Struna is a defender who likes to play football. He is comfortable taking possession in tight areas and risky situations, but confident in his ability to play out of danger and take responsibility. Technically sound, he will likely pique fans’ interest with a range of skills and tricks, the step-over and back-heel particular favourites. One aspect of his game that may frustrate fans, however, is his crossing, which requires improvement.

Rustiness may be a factor

The reason behind the short contract may be that Hearts are unsure as to how he will react to competitive action considering he last played a competitive game in April for former side PAS Giannina. The defender has been without a club since departing the Greek top-flight side. He had interest from elsewhere, in both Croatia and Serbia, but has only now committed to a club. A cryptic tweet regarding trusting agents hinted at a possible reason behind his inactivity.

Struna is an experienced international

He last played for Slovenia in a 1-0 friendly defeat to Turkey in June, and has been around the squad for more than four years, winning 25 caps. He faced England in qualification for the 2016 European Championships, making nine starts during the campaign. He was also part of the squad which lost to Ukraine in the play-offs for the competition in France. Struna has not been called up since June, but that may have more to do with his lack of club action. He scored his one and only international goal against San Marino in a 6-0 win.

He is versatile

Hearts fans have become accustomed to their full-backs taking up a range of positions. Whether it is right-footed Faycal Rherras at left-back, Liam Smith providing cover on both sides or Callum Paterson playing everywhere. Struna, predominantly a right-back, is comfortable on the left-hand side, giving the side adequate competition and cover in the full-back positions, and can play further forward if necessary. His last few games for PAS Giannina came on the right of midfield.

He helped create history

Struna helped FC Koper to their first ever Slovenian PrvaLiga, making 21 appearances as a 20-year-old. The small city team, close to the border with Italy, overcame bigger names Maribor and Olimpija Ljubljana to win the league by 11 points. He scored his first career goal in a 2-1 win on the last day of the season. His form in Slovenia saw him move to Cracovia in Poland then to the Greek top-flight.

His brother is also a professional

His younger sibling Aljaz Struna is a fellow defender and plays in Italy with Serie B. He also won the league with FC Koper before moving to Palermo in 2012. He has been in Italy ever since. However, Andraz leads the way in terms of international caps, his 25 bettering his brother’s six.

And finally, he is a big Mario Balotelli fan

The player’s Twitter feed is a shrine to both Slovenian football and Super Mario.