A free-kick specialist who shoots from 35 yards left Hearts for Turkey just ten days ago. The legend of Alim Ozturk may be challenged immediately by the arrival of French midfielder Malaury Martin, another player partial to a speculative goal attempt.
“I don’t see any reason why he won’t be good for Hearts. He’s got an unbelievable shot on him and can score from anywhere,” says Kevin Thomson, the former Hibs midfielder who was Martin’s team-mate at Middlesbrough.
“Kind of like the Ozturk goal in the derby at Easter Road? He’s got one of them in his locker. He shoots from 30 or 35 yards and he can put that real dip on his shots. In five-a-side games at training you don’t get a pass from him, he just shoots all the time.”
Hearts have required a creative midfield player for some time and Martin’s arrival on a three-and-a-half-year contract appears to tick the box. The 28-year-old came through Monaco’s youth academy and counts Blackpool, Middlesbrough and Lillestrom amongst his former clubs.
He is known as a cultured, technical footballer who uses both feet to pass well and who can occasionally score spectacular goals.
“You can see he’s been schooled well in a football sense,” continues Thomson. “He’s got nice touches and his style is very European. He’s been well taught in France and he’s a nice football player.
“I’m not really sure if he’s an attacking midfielder or not. He wants to get forward and shoot but at times he played as a sitting midfielder at Middlesbrough. Sometimes he came in off the right.
“He isn’t a player who will skip past people. He’s not a dribbler, he’s a passer. He’ll flick the ball inside and get a one-two then hit a shot, rather than a [Sam] Nicholson or a [Jamie] Walker who can run by people.
“He’s right-footed but he’ll let loose with any foot. When he played out wide he would always want to come inside. He isn’t suited to playing wide so it’ll be interesting to see how the Jambos utilise him.”
Thomson’s comments allied to internet video footage suggest Martin is in the same mould as Arnaud Djoum. The Cameroonian is currently in Gabon on international duty at the African Cup of Nations and isn’t available for Hearts’ Scottish Cup tie against Raith Rovers this Sunday.
“Malaury isn’t dissimilar to Djoum, who I’ve been really impressed with,” says Thomson, now running his own football academy after retiring as a player.
“I would find it difficult to see how they could both play together, but you don’t bring someone in on a three-and-a-half-year deal if you don’t see them playing in your starting line-up.
“It will be interesting to see where he plays because Don Cowie and Perry Kitchen are regular starters for Hearts as well. Maybe Kitchen and Cowie will be the two sitters with Walker, Djoum and Malaury in front of them? I don’t know. Malaury could certainly play in that type of formation.”
Martin was one of France’s most prodigious teenage talents and captained his country at every age level from under-17 to under-21. He made little impact at Blackpool and spent most of his time on the substitutes’ bench at Middlesbrough.
However, he began flourishing in Norway. He joined Lillestrom in 2015 from Sandnes and became a fans’ favourite. “We’re pleased to have got a versatile midfielder like Malaury,” said sporting director Torgeir Bjarmann after signing Martin. “He is a flexible player who can be used on the left wing, centre of midfield and in the No.10 role.”
Hearts lured him to Edinburgh after his Lillestrom contract expired in December. “I was surprised when I saw a three-and-a-half-year deal but Hearts will have done their due diligence. I wish him all the best,” says Thomson.
“The type of players Hearts are bringing in shows they’re being quite astute. They’re using the market quite wisely.
“Malaury was a typical French lad at Middlesbrough, he kept himself to himself. I think the Jambos have got themselves a good player and I’ll be interested to see how he does here.”