Hearts are favourites to re-sign Christophe Berra after the Scotland defender successfully negotiated his exit from Ipswich Town.
Berra has persuaded the Suffolk club not to invoke an option to extend his contract by 12 months because he wants to return to Edinburgh to be nearer his daughter.
Rangers are also interested in signing the 32-year-old centre-back but Hearts are in pole position - and could appoint Berra captain next season if they secure his return to Tynecastle. Rejoining his formative club would be his preference, although other teams will also now be alert to his availability as a free agent.
Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy was eager to keep the player by taking the club’s option to renew his contract for another year. He had to admit defeat when Berra insisted he wanted to leave for personal reasons.
“It’s a situation we have been aware of for some time,” said McCarthy on the Ipswich website. “He is not doing anything devious, he just wants to spend more time with his daughter and anyone with family can respect that.
“Christophe has been fantastic for us. He has been one of the best defenders in the Championship over the last four years and I didn’t want to lose him but I understand fully why he wants to go back closer to home and we wish him well.”
Berra said: “I really enjoyed my four years at Ipswich and I’ve only got good things to say about the club. I wish everyone there all the success in the future.”
The defender came through the Hearts youth academy and captained the Edinburgh club before joining Wolverhampton Wanderers in a £2.3million transfer in 2009. He moved to Ipswich in 2013 and is a current member of the Scotland squad with 35 caps.