Hearts snap up Brazilian defender Branco

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Hearts last night bolstered their defence by signing Brazilian centre-back Igor Rossi Branco on a one-year contract.

The left-sided 26-year-old is the Tynecastle side’s fourth summer signing and will provide cover and competition for newly-appointed captain Alim Ozturk and recent recruit Blazej Augustyn in central defence.

Hearts have signed Brazilian defender Igor Rossi Branco from Maritimo. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Hearts have signed Brazilian defender Igor Rossi Branco from Maritimo. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Branco has spent the last five years with Maritimo, but played predominantly for the Madeira-based club’s B team in the Portuguese lower leagues.

After talks with head coach Robbie Neilson, Branco believes his style fits with the way Hearts want to play. “I am a leader, I play aggressively and with a lot of passion and I like to have the ball at my feet and play from the back,” said Branco, who was brought to the attention of Hearts’ management by chief scout John Murray.

“I am very much looking forward to living in Edinburgh. As soon as I knew Hearts were interested in me I was on the internet looking at the city and it is beautiful and so full of history. My wife is also very excited to be coming to live in Scotland.

“Robbie was very impressive and he explained to me his ambition for the club, where he expects us to be in the future and how he wants the team to play. Craig also spoke very well to me and I was immediately convinced that I should come to Edinburgh and play for the Hearts.”

Branco follows Gavin Reilly, Augustyn and Juanma Delgado in arriving at Hearts this summer. The Brazilian, who holds an Italian passport, is expected to make his first appearance for Hearts in Sunday’s friendly with Everton at Tynecastle. He could also provide cover at left-back, with Nigerian Juwon Oshaniwa still waiting to finalise his protracted move to Tynecastle.

The African, who will likely become Hearts’ first-choice left-back when he eventually arrives, is still awaiting a visa to travel to Scotland.

Alongside a picture of Tynecastle, he tweeted yesterday: “I just don’t know what the delays are about my visa from UK embassy here in Abuja.”

With Oshaniwa expected to be behind the rest of the Hearts squad in terms of fitness, Kevin McHattie is likely to be the only recognised left-back fit and ready for Hearts’ opening competitive game of season at home to Arbroath in the first round of the League Cup next Thursday.