Arnaud Djoum aims to earn a longer contract at Hearts after rejecting offers from Romania and Cyprus to sign on at Tynecastle until January.
The Belgian midfielder believes his attributes are ideally suited to Scottish football and is eager to secure a long-term deal. Hearts want to see how he adapts and judge his fitness before deciding whether to offer an extension.
Djoum spoke to the media for the first time yesterday – in perfect English – and explained why he is already happy with his decision to choose Scotland over more “exotic” locations.
“I spoke to Barry Douglas, who I played with at Lech Poznan,” said the 26-year-old. “He told me a lot of good things about Hearts and he played with the manager, Robbie Neilson, too [at Dundee United].
“He said Scottish football was good football. I thought it would be a good step for my career. I didn’t want to go to an exotic country because I got offers from places like Romania and Cyprus. I didn’t want to go there. I wanted to go to a good football country and Scotland is one of them.
“Hearts want to see more of my fitness and everything so we agreed to sign until January. I will work hard and give the maximum to get a longer contract here. I think everything at Hearts is good for me to show myself and to be better. I will do everything to stay here longer.
“I’m happy here. Scotland is a good football country with a lot of good teams. I look forward to getting started here and I’m excited. Hearts is a very good club with good facilities, a good manager and a good team.”
Djoum left Lech Poznan in the summer after struggling to make an impact in Poland. Born in Cameroon, he holds a Belgian passport and has represented them at under-19 and under-20 level. He was back in Belgium pondering his future when a phonecall out of the blue from Riccarton saw him head for Edinburgh.
“I got the call from Hearts and they asked me about my fitness,” he continued. “I said I hadn’t done a lot so that’s why they asked me to come over first to see how my fitness was. I came for one week and everything was good so that’s why I signed here.”
Hearts may well have secured themselves a midfielder enforceer in Djoum. He is tall, athletic and likes to drive forward with the ball. In conversation, it is easy to detect why he feels he can make an impact in the Scottish Premiership.
“I think I am an aggressive player. I like to run a lot and this country is good for me. I think I can do good things here with my ability.
“I can start and I can play with my experience and my qualities. I just have to show it. I have to show it in training, work hard and try to impress everybody to be in the first XI.”
Djoum’s first experience of the Scottish game was as an unused substitute on Wednesday at Rugby Park. Being restricted to a watching brief in his first match may not have been a bad thing as a frantic encounter ended with four goals in the last 16 minutes and a dramatic 3-2 win for Hearts.
“For my first game, it was really crazy,” he laughed. “There was a lot of stress and a lot of long balls. We kept fighting and sometimes it’s not always easy but in the end we won the game. I was happy to be on the bench for the first time.”
He is likely to start there again tomorrow when Hearts visit Celtic Park. The player’s fitness levels are not yet 100 per cent, although he is keen to play some part and face his old youth team colleague from Belgium, Dedryck Boyata.
“I know him because we played in the same youth team at FC Brussels. He is one year younger than me. He is a big guy but a good guy and I know his father well too. I didn’t speak to him about Hearts so the first time I see him will be tomorrow. I don’t even know if he knows I signed here but I’m excited to see him.
“I played against him once before when I was in Holland [with Roda JC] and he was on loan in Holland [at FC Twente], but I don’t remember the score.
“I heard a lot of things about Celtic Park. It’s a big stadium with a lot of supporters. For every player, it’s good to play games like that. I look forward to being there and seeing the atmosphere. It could be a dream start for me. I am ready, not to start but I can play some minutes.”