Hearts want Arnaud Djoum and Faycal Rherras to play in next year’s African Cup of Nations – even though they could miss three key Ladbrokes Premiership matches and the Scottish Cup fourth round.
Djoum is currently with the Cameroon squad after winning his first cap last month, whilst Rherras is in the Morocco squad. Both nations have qualified for the Nations Cup, which takes place in Gabon from January 14 to February 5 next year.
Hearts are due to play Celtic, Rangers and Motherwell during that time, plus the Scottish Cup fourth round on the weekend of January 21. Djoum and Rherras may miss out if selected by their countries but head coach Robbie Neilson wants them involved in a major international tournament.
“It’s obviously difficult but these players are doing well and we fully back them going away with their countries,” he said. “It’s great for them to make international appearances and be involved at that level. We have to take the rough with the smooth.
“The smooth is that you have good players who are happy, they’re away playing internationals and gaining good experience to improve them. The rough is they might be away for a short period in January.
“You want all your players here but you also want internationalists. When players come back from international duty, they’re in a better place.
“Cameroon’s assistant manager came over here for a couple of days about six weeks ago and gave us all the information. They understand the difficulty in European players travelling over to Cameroon. They said they would help out as much as they can. I haven’t spoken to the Morocco coach yet.”