Free transfer options for Hearts this summer as Steven Naismith and Joe Savage aim to strengthen squad
Hearts will be looking to strengthen their squad in several areas this summer, with new sporting director Joe Savage working with Steven Naismith – if he gets the job – on priority positions.
Right-back will be one of them. James Hill has returned to Bournemouth now that his loan is over and Michael Smith, soon to be 35, has been released after seven years of service and more than 200 appearances. That leaves Australian international Nathaniel Atkinson as the only senior right-back in the squad and he has struggled for game time throughout the season.
Central midfield is another area Hearts will be looking to strengthen, although the return of Beni Baningime after more than a year out injured will be almost like a new signing. Cammy Devlin and Peter Haring are backed up by squad players Andy Halliday and Jorge Grant, but Hearts will be looking for more quality in that area, someone who can control games in possession and make things happen in the final third.
Captain Lawrence Shankland will probably be attracting interest after a brilliant season in Gorgie, scoring 28 goals and fellow frontman Josh Ginnelly is out of contract, so Hearts will be looking for a new striker just in case one or both depart.
It’s not easy to compete in the transfer market with EFL Championship and even League One clubs down south who can offer far more in wages, so Hearts have to be clever. Savage has been largely successful in the transfer market so far, and Australia could be worth looking at again for good value.
Here are 10 players who are out of contract this summer that could be worth considering. What do you think?
1. Teemu Pukki (striker)
A long shot perhaps, but the Finland international striker has made it clear he wants ‘one final adventure’ before he returns to his homeland with his young family after calling time on his five years at Norwich City. The 33-year-old was Steven Naismith's teammate and will also be well known to Frankie McAvoy, who was first-team coach at Norwich. Hearts would need to move fast, with Turkish second tier champions Samsunspor rumoured to have submitted an offer already. Pukki scored 88 goals in 209 appearances for Norwich after arriving on a free transfer from Danish side Brondby in the summer of 2018. It didn't work out when Pukki spent a season at Celtic ten years ago, but he has gone on to win 110 Finland caps, scoring 37 goals. He might find Edinburgh appealing. Photo: Henry Browne
2. Paul Smyth (right winger)
The 25-year-old is being tracked by several clubs and would be a very good acquisition. He plays with energy and exuberance and has an eye-catching goal celebration. A Northern Ireland international, Smyth scored 10 goals and provided three assists as Leyton Orient were crowned SkyBet League Two champions. A player who is sure to be attracting attention from elsewhere. Photo: James Manning
3. Alex Pattison (central midfielder)
The 25-year-old, who came through the ranks at Middlesbrough, has made it clear he is looking for a new club after seeing out his two years at Harrogate Town in EFL League Two. His manager recently described him as the best best counter-attacking central midfielder in League Two. Pattison collected eight goals and six assists from 39 appearances in the season just ended, taking his tally to 18 goals and 12 assists during his 86 appearances for Harrogate. Although he is aiming to play in EFL League One, he could perhaps be tempted by the top flight in Scotland and the prospect of European football. Photo: Pete Norton
4. Aiden O'Neill (central midfielder)
Out of contract after three seasons at Melbourne City, the 24-year-old Australian international is keen on a move to Europe and would dovetail nicely with compatriot Cammy Devlin in midfield. O'Neill made three English Premier League appearances as an 18-year-old for Burnley and is reportedly set to join French club Troyes this summer. Former Hearts defender Patrick Kisnorbo, who coached at Melbourne City, is the Troyes manager but they have been relegated to the second tier in France and that could potentially open the door for Hearts. The Aussie contingent in Edinburgh might prove attractive for O'Neill, who has won two Australia caps this year. Photo: Darrian Traynor