Joaquim Adao turned up at Tynecastle on transfer deadline day bearing gifts.
“He brought me Swiss chocolates,” said Hearts manager Craig Levein, joking that was enough to earn the Angolan international, who has signed on loan from FC Sion until the end of the season, a berth in the home line-up for tomorrow’s match against St Johnstone. But whether he can retain his place will depend on whether he has a hard or soft centre.
The 25-year-old has been brought as a defensive midfielder, with Levein hoping that will allow others to push further up the park.
“We’ve rotated a lot and we’ve had Harry [Cochrane] playing there, we’ve had Arnaud [Djoum], Prince [Buaben] and Don Cowie and Connor Randall there. But none of those fits the profile of what is required so we’ve often played two down with one advanced to protect. Now we can play one down and two advanced.
“He allows others more freedom and we should get more people forward. He’s good, experienced and has bundles of energy. He’s played international football and knows the position.”
While studying footage has given Levein belief that the midfielder could be the missing piece in his jigsaw, no-one on the coaching staff has actually been able to see him play.
“We have done a lot of research,” said Levein. “A lot of work has gone into it. There were lots of other players we could watch but I didn’t want them. This was the guy I wanted but he wasn’t playing. One of the reasons we were able to get him is that he is not playing.
“When I look at what we did [on deadline day] the one that we got was more important than the other one because we haven’t had a proper defensive midfield player for a while.”
Unwilling to divulge the identity of the one that got away, Levein, right, admitted that losing out late in the day had left him with cold feet. “I would like to have done one more deal with a striker. I thought I had it done and I had other options but then I thought: ‘I don’t know’. I had felt really good about that one then not so good about the rest so I decided to let the window close.”
Levein said that experience had taught him to trust his gut, conceding he had been burned by making knee-jerk decisions in the past. “A lot of the time it’s a feeling. I’ve realised when I’m not sure then I’m better not doing anything,” he added.
“There’s always a market after the window’s closed [for free agents] so we’ll look into that. If there is nothing that I really like then I’m happy with what we’ve got.”
He was delighted to hold on to Kyle Lafferty, joking that he switched off his phone
“We had loads of interest and I was worried someone might come in with a ridiculous offer that we might have had to make a decision on, but thankfully that didn’t happen.”
It leaves Levein feeling satisfied with his January business, insisting his squad has a better balance to it now.
“We got Deme [Mitchell] in and that sorted that left side and I was really happy about that,” he said. “Steven [Naismith] I have been really happy with. Joaquim has come in and will fill a gap and I’m happy about that and Danny [Amankwaa] is the other one and I was really impressed with him when he came on against Celtic. We lost five or six players but I wasn’t too worried about that.”
Levein is more disappointed by the prospect of losing goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin in the summer, though, as the 30-year-old seeks greater remuneration. “I have had a chat with him and he has already had offers from down south that are way more than we can afford to pay. Our offer is still on the table and it will remain there, but I am not hopeful. At his age, he has young kids… we’re on the same page, he knows I’d love to keep him and he’d love to stay but it is finances.
“There were teams interested in him before he came here but he got injured midway through the summer and missed out on some opportunities but right from the beginning he said he just wanted to sign for a year and get back playing. He has been brilliant. He has brought a lot to the team, that makes the backline feel safe and secure and I could count on one finger the mistakes he has made since he’s been here.
“You get good players through circumstance at times and you just have to enjoy them while they’re with you.”