Arnaud Djoum tipped to shine at Hearts

Arnaud Djoum made his Hearts debut against Celtic. Pic: SNS
Arnaud Djoum made his Hearts debut against Celtic. Pic: SNS
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In terms of securing a long-term future for himself at Hearts, time is not on Arnaud Djoum’s side.

The recently-recruited Belgian, who made his debut as a late substitute in last weekend’s goalless draw at Celtic Park, has just four months in which to make enough of an impression to have his current contract extended beyond January.

Trying to get regular game time in a midfield which already includes established players like Morgaro Gomis, Miguel Pallardo and Prince Buaben, while simultaneously adapting to a new environment and a new style of play in Scotland, looks likely to be a tall order for the 26-year-old.

However, a former colleague of Djoum’s believes he is equipped to make a swift impact at Hearts. Martijn Monteyne spent three years as a team-mate of his fellow Belgian at Dutch club Roda JC before the highly-regarded Djoum earned himself a transfer to Turkish Superlig side Akhisar Belediye just over a year ago. He is confident that his old pal will make a success of his move to Edinburgh as long as he is given a proper chance to showcase himself on the pitch.

“I don’t know the Scottish league very well but Arnaud is the type of player who can do well wherever he goes if he gets a chance because he always plays to a high level,” Monteyne told the Evening News.

After a frustrating time last season in Turkey and then Poland, Djoum has arrived at Hearts looking to rediscover the zest of his Roda days. The 6ft midfielder hoped to advance his career after leaving the Netherlands, but he was unable to get the game time he wanted either in Turkey, where he spent the first half of the campaign, or in Poland, after joining Lech Poznan in January.

Prior to last term he had spent five and a half years with Roda, a club based in the town of Kerkrade in the south east of Holland. The Cameroon-born midfielder moved there in 2009 as a 19-year-old after a season with Anderlecht and grew into a linchpin of the team who would leave with more than 100 Eredivisie appearances under his belt. Monteyne arrived at Roda in 2011, just in time to see Djoum start fulfilling his potential.

“I played with him for three years and in the beginning he was still a young player,” said Monteyne, a 30-year-old right-back who remains with Roda. “After a few years he was one of the better players in our team. He was part of a good team and as each year went on he became more and more important for us. He did well against the better teams in Holland, like Ajax and PSV, which is how I know that he can make a good career at a good level.

“I always felt he would move on to a higher level and that’s what happened when he went to Turkey. That was a step up for him and then he went to Poland. At his age, the most important thing is that he plays matches, so hopefully he gets that in Scotland.”

Monteyne explained that Hearts have recruited a player who will want to make his presence felt in Scotland. According to his former team-mate, Djoum, who scored nine of his ten career goals to date with Roda, is an all-round midfielder who is equally comfortable whether defending or attacking.

“Arnaud is a player with a lot of qualities,” said Monteyne. “He’s a midfielder who is good from box-to-box. He is technically very good. He runs well and he can interchange positions. He is always involved in the action.

“His fitness is very good and he gets around the pitch well. He will make tackles but also get forward and try to create for the team. He also has a good mentality. For me, he is a complete football player.”

The signing of Djoum last week continues a recent trend of Hearts recruiting players with a Dutch influence. Alim Ozturk, Soufian El Hassnaoui, Prince Buaben and the out-of-favour Kenny Anderson had all previously played in Holland at some point in their careers. Monteyne believes that Djoum will have no problem settling into Hearts’ increasingly cosmopolitan dressing-room and is adamant that he falls into the “good type” category that head coach Robbie Neilson and director of football Craig Levein always look for when adding to their squad.

“He is a friendly guy which should help him at his new club,” said Monteyne. “He is also motivated to make the most of his football career so I think it will be a good move by his new team to sign him. I had a bit more experience than him and whenever I gave him advice he always listened.

“He is just a normal guy off the field but on the field he can be hard when he needs to be and he is always motivated. I would expect him to adapt to Scottish football and make the most of his opportunity.”