Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson has revealed wants up to five new players for his club’s return to the Scottish Premiership.
The priorities are a centre-back and a striker, with Brad McKay joining St Johnstone and Genero Zeefuik unlikely to move to Tynecastle permanently.
Neilson has already spoken with transfer targets and is now waiting to learn whether deals can be done. It is understood the players in question are outwith Scotland. He wants a defender to replace McKay, while a forward will be required when the on-loan Zeefuik returns to parent club FC Groningen at the end of the season.
Groningen want a considerable fee to transfer him permanently and Hearts are already looking in other areas. Neilson said today that he may need four or five new faces over the summer as Hearts target a top-six finish in next season’s Premiership.
“I want to bring in good players,” he said. “If somebody leaves then somebody better has to come in. We do need four, maybe five possibly. That all depends on who stays so it’s difficult to put an exact figure on it. We have to add quality. That’s it. We do need more quality in the squad for next season.
“I know what I want. There’s contact been made and now we’re waiting to see. With Brad leaving, we need to get a centre-half in. Genero will be leaving so we need to get a striker in. There are a couple of other things I’d like to do depending on the guys who are out of contract.
“My priority is getting the squad formulated for next season. I will look at what I need. Then we have to sort out the guys who are out of contract as well and see if they want to stay.”
Miguel Pallardo, Adam Eckersley and Gary Oliver are out of contract in a matter of weeks and Hearts want to keep all three. Teenager Robbie Buchanan is also expected to be offered an extension.
“We’re going to speak to the guys out of contract, get their agents in and see what we can do,” added Neilson. “I think there’s a few of them coming in next week and the week after. It’s important we speak to these guys and get them tied up because they’ve given us so much this season.
“Everything falls into a budget and where we want to take the club. We want to push to get into the top six next season so if that means altering the squad a little bit then so be it. We’ve just won the Championship, but we definitely need to recruit.”
The process will be even more thorough than last summer as Neilson tries to improve the standard of a squad which has just run away with the Scottish Championship.
“We have to be more stringent with our recruitment now. We must make sure we get the right players in within the right budget and we have to take more time doing it,” he said.
“We will check their characters because we can’t afford to bring players in who aren’t the right character.
“We have to stay within our remit and get the right guys in who want to take the club forward. There are guys at the club just now who are doing a fantastic job for us, but when we do add to the squad we need to make sure we’re adding quality to the ones already there.
“Anybody who comes in has to take us up a level and give us something different. That will be the task over the summer.”