Miguel Pallardo counts Spanish superstars Juan Mata, Gerard Pique and Roberto Soldado among his former team-mates.
Joining a club in Scottish football’s second tier would normally be considered a step down for a former Valencia midfielder with Spain Under-21 caps. Pallardo, however, believes signing for Hearts can revitalise his career and has already targeted a return to Europe with the Edinburgh club.
Once regarded as one of Spain’s most prodigious talents, the 28-year-old has suffered due to relentless managerial changes at former clubs Valencia, Getafe and Levante. His career has stalled and he has pitched up in Scotland seeking a renaissance. Hearts were only too happy to offer a contract until the end of the season.
Pallardo’s English needs work. However, he has diligently researched his new club to familiarise himself as much as possible. He believes Hearts are a Premiership side in all but name and is committed to helping them return to the top flight. Furthermore, he wants to sample European football if he can extend his stay at Tynecastle.
“The moment I had the option of Hearts I learned about the history, the supporters and the stadium. It is a Premiership club in itself,” he said. “With everything that surrounded the club, I was convinced from the first moment. I’ve come here to help the project along and be part of the history.
“I want to grow as a player and a person, but at the moment I am focused on the project here at Hearts and see where that takes me. Why can’t I play in Europe again at Hearts? The first thing is to win the league this season and take things step by step. When we are back in the Premiership anything is possible.
“There was no doubt in my decision to come to Scotland, I liked the opportunity. My family are fine in Valencia and I want to get settled, get my English going and they can come over in December. I’ll find my feet here first.”
Whilst doing so, he expects some contact from former colleagues Mata and Soldado. “I don’t speak to them every day but I still have a relationship with them. I’m sure when they find out I’m here I’ll be getting messages from them and I’ll start speaking to them,” he said. “It was a great privilege to play with players like that. I learned a lot from them and they learned things from me. I hoped to get to a high level after I started at Valencia but I’ve had one of those unlucky periods. It has left me on the border of being top and not getting the opportunities.
“I had a change of manager and I didn’t get an opportunity with that manager and that happened to me two or three times. One of the problems in Spain is there is a lot of instability with managers. One day you have a manager who believes in you and you’re playing every game. Two weeks later you have another manager who doesn’t play you.”
Robbie Neilson, the Hearts head coach, is certain to grant his 12th new signing plenty game time. Pallardo is in the squad for today’s league visit to Dumbarton, which will be quite a contrast from his last competitive outing against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu.
“I’m going to approach the Dumbarton game with exactly the same mentality as Real Madrid,” he said. “The same drive and the same commitment. I will give everything to win the game the same as I do in every game.
“I don’t want to be compared to anyone but I know exactly what my role is on the pitch. I hold my position and I help the team. I come out and play the ball and I have a high work rate to get the ball back when the team loses it. My commitment is 100 per cent. My ideal position is defensive midfield, just in front of the back two. I can play further forward and have occasionally played right-back – very occasionally. My natural position is defensive midfield.”