Hearts' Kari on his way to Cyprus

CHRISTOS KARIPIDIS has signed a pre-contract agreement to join Cypriot club Omonia Nicosia this summer when his Hearts contract expires.

The defender has agreed to a three-year deal having been pursued by Omonia's Greek head coach, Takis Lemonis, for several weeks.

Karipidis visited Cyprus last week for talks and was encouraged by the club's vision for the future under Lemonis.

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The Evening News revealed on Saturday that Omonia were hoping to lure Karipidis back to the Mediterranean and, with the deal now finalised, the 26-year-old is expected back in Edinburgh this week.

He will complete the season with Hearts as they strive to secure a place in the Europa League qualifying rounds before departing for pastures new. It is believed the decision to play in the Cypriot First Division was taken to allow Karipidis to be nearer his family in Greece.

A source at Omonia Nicosia said today: "We have not officially announced this transfer but we have an agreement for the next three years. The player will be with us for the new season."

Karipidis joined Hearts in August 2006 from the Greek side PAOK Salonika for a fee of 200,000.

Meanwhile, Lee Wallace was named Hearts' Young Player of the Year Saturday night at the club's annual awards ceremony at Tynecastle. The 21-year-old has been in outstanding form all season, a fact recognised by supporters who voted for him via Hearts' official website.

Full-back Craig Thomson won the Under-19 Player of the Year award while midfielder Jason Holt was named Under-17 Player of the Year. Youth academy director John Murray received a special achievement award from George Nicholson, chairman of the Hearts Youth Development Committee.

"We have a good crop of young players at the moment," said Murray. "I would like to give enormous credit to the scouts that work so hard to identify talent and the coaches who nurture it.

"It is a real team effort, not least from the young boys who put in 100 per cent in pursuit of being as good as they can be. Lee, Craig and Jason have all done really well this year and deserve their awards, but I know that they would be first to admit it is a team game, and all have played in good teams this season."

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All proceeds from the event are to be re-invested in Hearts' youth academy.