Hearts set to release a number of players as deals expire

Edinburgh club will cut squad size ahead of next season

The Hearts squad will be smaller next season.

Hearts are preparing to release several players whose contracts and loans are expiring as they cut squad size for next season.

Owner Ann Budge has also admitted that there will be no new signings at Tynecastle Park for now.

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A number of first-team and reserve players have agreements ending on May 31, including Steven MacLean, Oliver Bozanic, Euan Henderson, Lewis Moore and Jamie Brandon. Donis Avdijaj and Marcel Langer are out of contract on June 9.

Moore and Brandon have been offered new contracts and Hearts are interested in keeping Henderson, but the others are set to become free agents.

Avdijaj has held talks with SC Braga about a potential move to Portugal, while MacLean spent part of this season on loan at Raith Rovers to get game time. Langer only featured three times in maroon after arriving in January.

Bozanic has played regularly for Hearts over the last two years but Budge insisted she is not able to extend contracts for senior players after asking the squad to take wage cuts.

Clevid Dikamona agreed to cancel his contract back in March when football was forced into shutdown by the coronavirus pandemic.

Hearts could offer one or two of the above the option to re-sign later in the summer if they are still unattached, however no guarantees are being given.

Additionally, loanees Toby Sibbick, Joel Pereira and Ryotaro Meshino are due to return to their parent clubs in England.

Sibbick’s loan from Barnsley runs until June 9, Pereira will finish his stay at Tynecastle Park two days later when he rejoins Manchester United, whilst Ryotaro Meshino’s loan from Manchester City ends on June 20.

“We had a very small number of players out of contract at the end of May. It just isn't possible and doesn’t make any sense for me to extend anybody’s contract,” Budge told Hearts TV.

“We’ve had very amicable conversations with the individuals involved. It may well be that some of them end up back here again but I can’t extend.

“I can’t be asking people to take wage cuts and then taking on either new players or extending deals, so we won’t be extending any of the senior players.

“Some of the younger ones, we have to do the usual things like protect training compensation so all of that is being handled as well.

“We have sorted out where some of our younger players do have extensions for the reasons I’ve given – we want to keep them, we need to protect our training compensation.

“We won’t be making any new signings for reasons which I think are probably quite obvious.

“I’ve had a number of people saying: ‘We want to join Hearts.’ I can’t even enter into these discussions at the moment given all the uncertainty.

“We don't even know when the transfer window is going to open. From memory, I think it’s supposed to be June 10. Will it be June 10? None of us know.

“Until that happens there is a limit to what you can do anyway. So, yes, we are at the end of this season and a number of people are out of contract either at the end of May or early June.

“Other than the young ones, we’re not extending contracts.”

Reserve players Daniel Baur and Kelby Mason have already been released, with Alex Petkov and Rory Currie also nearing the end of their existing agreements.

Budge wants to operate with a smaller playing staff after seeing the first-team pool spiral to 35 players at one point this season.

The Edinburgh club were relegated to the Championship last week but Budge wants to restructure the leagues to three divisions of 14 teams, which would keep Hearts in the top flight.

If that fails, a drop into Scotland’s second tier would have a bearing on finances and the size of squad they could then operate with.

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