Christophe Berra plans to end his career at Hearts after agreeing to return to Tynecastle on a three-year contract.
He is now in contention to be named captain for next season and admitted the Edinburgh club were the only team in Scotland he wanted to play for after leaving Ipswich Town.
Berra, 32, had his arrival confirmed five months after the Evening News first broke news of Hearts’ intent to bring him home.
As six players left Gorgie – Andraz Struna, Lennard Sowah, Alex Tziolis, Tasos Avlonitis, Moha Choulay and Dylan Bikey – Berra’s return is seen as the first building block for next season.
“It’s a great feeling. I wanted to come back and there’s only one team in Scotland I wanted to play for and that’s Hearts,” said the Scotland centre-back. “I’m born and bred in Edinburgh, my friends and family are here and this is the only club I’ve ever played for in Scotland. Hopefully, I can end my career here.”
Berra revealed how Hearts head coach Ian Cathro and director of football Craig Levein influenced his return to the Capital. After coming through the Hearts youth academy, he left for Wolverhampton Wanderers in a £2.3 million transfer in 2009 before moving to Ipswich in 2013.
“I’ve spoken to Ian a few times and I’ve spoken to other boys about him and they’ve only got good things to say about him,” Berra told the Hearts website. “Craig Levein was also a big factor, he gave me my debut as a youngster and a lot of my career is down to him. So yeah, I’m looking forward to playing for Ian, to playing at Tynecastle again and taking Hearts back to where they should be.”
Slovenian defender Struna departed after failing to agree a new contract with Tynecastle officials. German full-back Lennard Sowah has also gone as the club’s clearout continues.
Both players arrived in January and signed short-term deals but are now moving on as Cathro continues reshaping his squad for next season.
Greek pair Tziolis and Avlonitis have already gone, with winger Choulay returning to parent club Stoke City and forward Bikey also being freed.
Struna held discussions with Hearts about extending his stay although no agreement was reached. The Slovenian internationalist had other options in Europe and has now parted company with the club. He made 17 appearances in maroon and scored one goal.
Other departures include winger Billy King, who will join Dundee United for next season. Callum Paterson and Sam Nicholson are due to leave on freedom of contract.
The exits of all the above-named players will create space in the Hearts first-team squad for more new arrivals to follow Berra.