Hearts have verbally agreed terms to sign Cambridge United striker Uche Ikpeazu on a pre-contract for next season.
The 23-year-old is set to join Steven MacLean at Tynecastle as manager Craig Levein reinforces his forward line.
Ikpeazu has hit 14 goals in 42 appearances this season for the English League Two club. However, he is ready to take the next step in his career by moving to Scotland. At 6ft 3in, he will bring a physical presence to Hearts. His contract in East Anglia expires at the end of the season and, after several rounds of talks with Hearts officials, he is poised to be confirmed as a pre-contract signing. An official announcement is expected once both clubs tie up some loose ends relating to the move. Born in Harrow to Nigerian and Ugandan parents, Ikpeazu already has eight different clubs on his CV despite his relative youth. He emerged from Reading’s academy before joining Watford in 2013 and then Cambridge two years ago. He also spent time on loan at Didcot Town, Crewe Alexandra, Doncaster Rovers, Port Vale and Blackpool.
Hearts see him as a young and ambitious player who could develop further north of the Border. He will remain at Cambridge to play in their final four games of the campaign before heading to Edinburgh for a new challenge.
Kyle Lafferty is the only established forward contracted to Hearts for next season so Levein is busily attempting to recruit more options.
MacLean will join Hearts from St Johnstone in the summer after the Perth club confirmed on their website that the 35-year-old had signed a two-year deal with the Edinburgh club, ending a six-year spell at McDiarmid Park.
St Johnstone boss Tommy Wright said: “Hearts contacted us last week to let us know they were speaking to Steven and the expectation was that he’d sign for them on a pre-contract.
“It’s a shame to see him go, but we wish him all the best because he’s been a fantastic servant to this football club since he joined in 2012.
“I don’t think Steven owes the club or I anything.
“He’s been an asset to the squad both on and off the pitch and has been a great example for our younger players.
“I’m probably the manager he’s played under the longest in his career and he’s always done fantastic for me.
“I can see the attraction for Steven and Hearts is a big club. At this stage in his career, it’s a move he felt he couldn’t turn down and, as I said, I don’t feel like he owes us anything and we wish him well for his new challenge.”
Hearts want MacLean’s experience on board next season as they continue nurturing young strikers Aidan Keena, Rory Currie, Euan Henderson and Anthony McDonald.
Hearts are also keen on the Scotland international goalkeeper Allan McGregor, who is contracted to Hull City. Jon McLaughlin, the established No.1, is expected to leave on freedom of contract this summer and 36-year-old McGregor would bring experience.