Ian Cathro targets Aaron Hughes as Alim Ozturk exits Hearts

Hearts target Aaron Hughes is keen to return to the UK. Picture: Getty.
Hearts target Aaron Hughes is keen to return to the UK. Picture: Getty.
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Hearts have made contact with Northern Ireland international defender Aaron Hughes to offer a contract until the end of the season.

The 37-year-old is now poised to become head coach Ian Cathro’s first signing at Tynecastle.

The deal could be extended into next season if both parties agree. The centre-back is currently a free agent and is wanted for his experience and leadership as Cathro tries to strengthen his defence.

Hughes has played in England’s Premier League with Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Fulham. He also holds 104 caps for Northern Ireland and represented his country at Euro 2016 last summer.

He has worked with Hearts assistant coach Austin MacPhee, who is also second in command to Northern Ireland coach Michael O’Neill.

Hughes spent the last six months as a marquee player at the Indian Super League club Kerala Blasters but is keen on the chance to continue his career back in Britain.

His arrival in Gorgie would reinforce the centre of Cathro’s defence and, potentially, allow Igor Rossi to fill the left-back role.

Meanwhile, Alim Ozturk has left Hearts to join the Turkish club Boluspor on an 18-month contract.

The centre-back was out of favour at Tynecastle and was told he had no future there having been stripped of the captaincy in September.

He leaves in a permanent move after deciding to return to the Turkish second tier. He previously played in Turkey with Trabzonspor before joining Hearts in 2014.

The 24-year-old enjoyed an impressive first season in Scotland as the Edinburgh club won the Championship. He was then named club captain in 2015 after Danny Wilson departed.

However, this season Ozturk lost his place in the starting line-up. He was relieved of the captain’s armband in September, which was given to the American internationalist Perry Kitchen.

Ozturk decided to return to Turkey at the first opportunity but will remain popular with the Hearts support for his memorable 40-yard equaliser against Hibs at Easter Road in October 2014.