HEARTS have taken the former Atletico Madrid youth player Alvaro Merida on a week’s trial as they look to enhance their squad for the Premiership.
The 22-year-old will spend the rest of the week training under head coach Robbie Neilson as he bids to win a contract.
Merida has been capped by Spain at under-16 and under-17 level and reportedly had to turn down a move to Manchester City in 2008 because of school commitments. A striker/attacking midfielder, who is comfortable on both flanks or through the middle, the Madrid-born player was once likened to Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas and spent three months in Roma’s reserves in 2009.
However, more recently, the Spaniard has fallen down the divisions in his homeland and is now seeking to kick-start his career in Scottish football.
Neilson has indicated he is keen to make as many as five new signings following promotion and has previously admitted there is more value for money in players currently playing on the continent. Merida’s compatriot, Miguel Pallardo, has been a hit at Tynecastle this season, whilst the likes of Alim Ozturk, Osman Sow, Genero Zeefuik and Soufian El Hassnaoui have all played key parts in the club’s remarkable season.
A source said: “Hearts have recruited very well from abroad, [director of football] Craig Levein and Robbie Neilson deserve great credit for that, and hopefully Alvaro can be the next success.”
Meanwhile, Hibernian head coach Alan Stubbs insists he hopes to stave off interest in his current squad by agreeing new deals with players “as quickly as possible”.
Mark Oxley, currently on loan from Hull City but out of contract in the summer, is the latest to be linked with another club after Sheffield Wednesday were credited with an interest in the keeper, who Hibs are keen to hold on to.
The likes of Lewis Stevenson, Liam Craig, Scott Robertson, Fraser Fyvie, Liam Fontaine and Tomas Cerny are also approaching the end of their current agreements, while loans for Keith Watson and Dylan McGeouch will expire at the end of the campaign.
Hibs’ attempts to hang on to the players they want may be hampered by uncertainty over the club’s bid to be promoted back to the Premiership through play-offs that could even drag on into June.
However, Stubbs, whose side have suffered back-to-back defeats to Rangers and Raith Rovers to dent their attempts to finish second, believes the importance of the coming weeks will help keep his players’ minds from their contractual situations. He said: “It’s just something that goes hand in hand with football. The good thing is we’ve got big games coming, so that keeps their focus and keeps their attention.
“Everything else takes care of itself, I really do think that. When you’re not playing well you’re not linked with other clubs, but when you’re playing well you’re linked with other clubs.
“That will be the same with all the players – and if there’s more than one linked with another club then great, because it means they’re doing something right.”
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