Hearts baulk at £1m price tag on Croatian defender

Niko Datkovic has been on loan at Spezia Calcio in Italy's Serie B

Niko Datkovic has been on loan at Spezia Calcio in Italy's Serie B

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HEARTS’ interest in Niko Datkovic has cooled after HNK Rijeka demanded more than £1 million for the Croatian centre-back.

The Evening News can reveal that Tynecastle officials lodged an offer for the 22-year-old but were blown away when Rijeka came back with their seven-figure valuation.

Talks have stopped for the moment and are unlikely to resume whilst the two clubs 
remain so far apart in their valuations. Hearts are eager to sign a young and ambitious central defender after Danny Wilson and Brad McKay left. They believe Datkovic fits the bill but they will not pay excessive transfer fees.

Datkovic is a Croatian Under-21 internationalist, who was on loan at Spezia Calcio in Italy’s Serie B this season. Hearts spoke to his parent club in Croatia and submitted their offer last month, but Rijeka want a considerably greater amount for one of their prized assets.

That leaves Craig Levein, Hearts’ director of football, and head coach Robbie Neilson to look elsewhere. They are conscious of not spending money their club can’t afford in light of the financial problems which engulfed Tynecastle in recent years.

If Rijeka were to reduce their demands, then Hearts would rekindle their interest in Datkovic, but negotiations remain at a standstill for now.