Four Congo caps and a range of clubs across Europe depict Clevid Dikamona as a cultured and experienced centre-back.
Hearts signed him at the start of the month to provide defensive cover. Those who witnessed his performance at Oriam in Monday’s reserve win against Hibs seem encouraged, but much remains unknown about the 28-year-old.
Chances are he will start on the bench this weekend when Hearts travel to Fir Park for a league match with Motherwell. John Souttar and the on-loan Jimmy Dunne looked fairly assured in central defence during wins against Kilmarnock and St Mirren before the international break.
Dikamona will likely need to bide his time to deputise for the injured Tynecastle captain, Christophe Berra. What can supporters expect when he does take to the field? Well, Africans are not usually known for their shyness, although Dikamona was born in Caen in France and qualifies to represent Congo through parentage. Nonetheless, those who have played with him indicate Hearts have recruited quite a character.
More importantly, his best attributes include physical strength and an ability to bring the ball out of defence with his feet. The pace of Scottish football could well take him aback after a short spell in Israel last month, but he does have previous experience of Britain.
“He’s just an athlete, to be fair,” said the former Scotland Under-21 centre-back Dominic Hyam, who played beside Dikamona at Dagenham & Redbridge two years ago. “He’s strong, quick, powerful and he’s got a bit of a diag [diagonal ball] on him. He reads the game quite well for such a big lad as well. He’a a great guy who speaks good English. I think he will do well up in Scotland.
“He likes a bit of a laugh and a joke from what I can remember. He will get involved with the fans and do his bit that way. I can see the Hearts supporters really taking to him. He will show a bit of personality, don’t you worry. Expect a bit of dancing and stuff like that. I couldn’t say what kind of dancing it was he used to do, but it was a lot better than mine.”
Dikamona began his career in France with his local club, Caen, before moving on to Le Havre in 2010. He ventured across the English Channel in October the following year to take up the offer of a trial with Sheffield Wednesday. Then in League One, the Yorkshire club wanted to sign him but failed to agree a transfer fee with Le Havre and the player returned to France.
Another one-week trial in England three months later, this time with Championship side Nottingham Forest, again ended in frustration when a deal could not be agreed. Dikamona left Le Havre for spells with fellow French sides Sedan and Poire-Sur-Vie before finally securing that contract in England at the age of 26. A year in London with Dagenham & Redbridge during the 2015/16 season saw the club relegated to England’s National League. Dikamona was released when his contract expired that summer.
Once more he returned home and signed for Bourg-Peronnas before heading to Greece to join Platanias last summer. There, he played beside the veteran former Hearts defender Christos Karipidis. The move to Israeli Premier League club Bnei Sakhnin lasted barely a fortnight as both parties agreed to terminate their agreement, leaving Dikamona a free agent to join Hearts.
“I wouldn’t say he was particularly British in style. He is quite cultured,” said Hyam. “He is good on the ball and is physically strong. His reading of the game is quite good so it will be interesting to see how he does up in there. He was at Dagenham for a year or so but he hasn’t played in England or Scotland apart from that. I’ll be keen to see how he gets on.
“He is definitely vocal. He will shout about a bit and bark instructions. He is 28 now so he has experience now and he will do his bit in terms of talking.
“I’d say Clevid was up there as one of the better centre-halves I’ve played with. He was quite easy to play with. He’s committed and he uses his strength. He’s also a good talker considering he didn’t know that much English at the start of his time at Dagenham. He gets himself out of trouble when he needs to, so he is good to play with.”
Character is something Hearts research deeply when signing a new player and Dikamona will have been no different. His footballing background is varied, but his personal life appears stable. He prefers to keep himself out of the limelight rather than court publicity – an approach certain to be welcomed by the powers-that-be at Riccarton.
“Clevid keeps himself to himself away from the football, but at team functions he will come into his own,” explained Hyam. “He will show a bit of personality. That’s why I think the fans will take to him. I reckon they will enjoy having him at Hearts.”
African internationalists have had varying degrees of success at Tynecastle over the years. Arnaud Djoum won the African Cup of Nations as a Hearts player with Cameroon, whilst at the other end of the spectrum there is the much-derided Juwon Oshaniwa of Nigeria.
Others such as Ibrahim Tall, David Obua, Mehdi Taouil, Faycal Rherras and Joaquim Adao would be somewhere in between. Clevid Dikamona’s arrival on a one-year deal with the option to extend seems a low-risk move by Hearts to plug a central defensive gap. It will be interesting to see where, and how, he fits in.