“When I was a child I didn’t watch much football, but when I decided I was coming to Hearts I watched videos of Nakamura so I could learn a bit about Scottish football,” he said. “Nakamura is a great player in Japan and his achievements in Scotland were fantastic. A lot of people in Scotland talk about Nakamura so I want to be a player the supporters here love, like the Celtic supporters do with Nakamura.”
The 21-year-old, known as Ryo, signed for parent club Manchester City earlier this month but it was immediately agreed he would go out on loan and he was offered clubs on the continent and down south, but chose Craig Levein’s Premiership side.
Work permits and visas delayed his arrival but with the deal finally done, he had the chance to train with his new team-mates at Tynecastle yesterday and he admitted he was relieved the wait was over.
“For one week, two weeks I couldn’t sleep! The wait was killing me! I wanted to come to Edinburgh and every day I was saying: ‘Hurry up! hurry up!’ Finally I’m here!” he said.
Subject to international clearance, the creative forward, who is expected to bolster the Hearts attack, could make his debut against Hamilton at Tynecastle today.
But it won’t be the first match he has witnessed at the Gorgie ground. He was in the capital a couple of weeks ago as Hearts played host to Ross County.
A poor performance lacked goals as well as any fluidity, and there were also audible remonstrations from the fans, but despite all that the Japanese playmaker left feeling even more positive about the move and the opportunities that lay ahead. “I can imagine that I can help make a difference in the team. The supporters at Hearts are very hardcore and are very passionate,” said Meshino.
“I knew he was hugely keen after we brought him to the Ross County game and he still wanted to come,” said Levein, acknowledging that it wasn’t the side’s finest moment. “But believe it or not that told me something and he said he loved the atmosphere, which is interesting as well.
“He talked about a moment in the second half when Aidy White beat a few players and the crowd responded and that excited him because that’s what he does, and I think that game taught him that football here matters as well.
“If you’re playing in the top league in Japan you maybe think the top league in Scotland isn’t the most exciting place to play. But I think the emotion of the fans and the stadium, it always feels better to play football in a place where the football matters. It matters here and he felt that during the game, which was exciting for me. He understands our fans expect to win and he feels he is someone who can help us win. So let’s see what happens.”
A player who is dangerous when gifted space on the edge of the box but is happy taking the ball in tight areas, he’s as comfortable picking out a team-mate as he is having a dig himself. And, while he may be fairly diminutive, he is robust, according to his manager.
Here to improve as a player, he also has a down-to-earth approach despite being snapped up on a seven-figure price tag by a club the size of the English Premier League champions. While several clubs wooed him, Meshino said Hearts stood out.
“They picked out my strengths and things I could improve on. I feel good about this. I believe Hearts can help me improve,” he said. “My big goal is to play for Manchester City, of course. But this is my first season playing in Europe and I think everyone at Hearts, the coach and the assistant coaches, have made me feel positive that they will help me and for now, I just want to play and concentrate on Hearts.”
Following the arrival of the Japanese player, Hearts have sent young Harry Cochrane and Anthony McDonald on a season-long loan to Dunfermline in search of regular first- team football.