Hearts are resigned to losing Jamie Walker this summer but the club’s Player of the Year will only be allowed to move on if the money is right.
Director of Football Craig Levein revealed the winger, who graduated from the club’s academy and made his first team debut in 2012, has held talks with manager Ian Cathro about his future and made it clear that he wants to continue his career elsewhere. The 23 year old is under contract for another year and any suitors will need to offer the Tynecastle side compensation.
“We’ve had a couple of phonecalls,” admitted Levein. “We don’t want to lose him but, if the right offer comes in, then we’ll need to consider it. None of the calls have been close to the right offer. I’d like to keep him and that probably taints our judgment but I can understand his position.
“It’s a normal thing to sell a player. It’s not a particular surprise. He’s been at the club for a certain time and all these kids have gone through a tough period. They come out the other end of it as better and stronger players and they feel they’re ready to make the next step. I get that.”
If he does leave, Walker will be following fellow academy graduates Callum Paterson and Sam Nicholson, and leave Hearts with another void to fill as they seek to rebuild an already much-changed squad. Levein added that, with several January signings already cut loose, Hearts are looking to sign around half a dozen replacements.
They have already snapped up Scotland international Christophe Berra and Levein claimed that was an indication of a new direction as Hearts seek to regain a firm footing in the league and push for silverware. Conceding that the two most recent transfer windows had been disappointing, Levein added that changes have been made to the recruitment policy. Using statistics and an outside company to help earmark targets rather than rely solely on contacts, he intend to move towards a nucleus of British players, supplemented by key foreigners.
Levein said: “Scottish or British is what we’re looking to do. How many? Five or six players, something like that. Next year our budget will be fourth and that will be the minimum position for us. If we don’t get that then we will be disappointed.
“Finishing fifth is not where we wanted to be this season, but we are where we are. The important thing is to get better for next season.”