JUANMA DELGADO will be a marked man after a goalscoring start to his career in Scotland, Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson has warned.
Brad McKay’s comments about the Spaniard being a “typical foreigner” drew plenty attention last week but Neilson believes Juanma will now find himself under pressure because of his bustling style of play.
Hearts will start the forward against Dundee this afternoon following his league debut in last week’s 4-3 win over St Johnstone. His physical presence, touch and awareness stood out at Tynecastle before McKay’s comments, which the SFA are investigating.
Neilson advised today that Juanma can expect to be tightly marked by opponents, who are now fully aware of his threat. He arrived in Edinburgh from the Greek club Kalloni in June and has quickly made an impact.
“I think there are a few defenders who don’t take too kindly to a 6ft 3in striker dominating during a game,” said Neilson. “Brad spoke after the game – I know him well – and he will probably look back on things he shouldn’t have said. But the pleasing thing is we are talking about Juanma and the influence he had in the game.
“If you saw his display, I think he’s going to be a marked man. His finish and his touch for the penalty, his turn in the box – he’s a talented player. These will be the things people are talking about. When you play against a guy who’s 6ft 3in, you have to be physical. Sometimes you can overstep the mark.
“We had Edgaras Jankauskas here, who was 6ft 4in and built like a tank. You had to be physical to play against him. Sometimes people step over the mark and, if they do it’s a free-kick. Just because you’re 6ft 4in, doesn’t mean you should be treated any differently.”
Neilson hopes to keep teenage defender Jordan McGhee at Tynecastle following two bids from Ipswich Town. Their latest offer of £250,000 is well below Hearts’ valuation of the Scotland Under-21 internationalist. The English Championship club are likely to return with a third offer before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.
“It is nowhere near where we value the player. The player is in the first-team squad, has played a lot of games and is a Scotland Under-21 international,” said Neilson. “He is a huge prospect and, if he is going to leave the club, he is going to leave for the value he is worth. The offers which have come in have been nowhere near it and we have told Ipswich that.
“We won’t even set a price because they will just come in with a bid lower than that. It is up to them to come in with a price that is right. I have no idea if they will come back in or not – it is up to them but they will need to up it.”
With finances now stable in Gorgie, Hearts are under no pressure to sell any player. “It’s a pleasing thing for Scottish football that there are a few clubs in that position – Hibs, Dundee United and ourselves,” continued Neilson. “We can say ‘no’ and we don’t need the money. We probably would have to have taken it two or three years ago.”
At 19, McGhee wants to play regularly for Hearts but is not guaranteed a place in the starting line-up.
“If someone puts a bid in, my advice always [to the player] is to play games up here, become a regular and then go down there,” stressed Neilson. “It is entirely up to the player what he wants to do and hopefully he understands our stance.
“I think he needs to stay here and develop. I speak to him all the time and he wants to stay here and play. Until we get an offer we feel is acceptable and he thinks is acceptable to him then he needs to make that decision.”
The prospect of late movement on the final day of the transfer window is one Neilson is aware of and prepared for.
“It’s always difficult if a player is sold on the last day of the transfer window as you are rushing about. But I’ve got an idea of who I would bring in if I were to lose players. We need to make sure we are ready to make a move.”