Perry Kitchen’s Hearts career is all but over after he was told he will not play regularly next season.
The American internationalist will now seek a new club having been replaced as captain at Tynecastle by new arrival Christophe Berra.
The Evening News has learned that Kitchen was informed of the decision before Berra signed and is now likely to continue his career elsewhere. He would prefer to remain in Europe but also has a long list of suitors in the United States, where he was previously voted Most Valuable Player with DC United.
The midfielder’s Hearts contract runs until May 2018 but club officials will not be difficult to deal with regarding his transfer. He left DC United for Tynecastle in March 2016 and was appointed captain six months later. However, he has fallen out of the team since Ian Cathro replaced Robbie Neilson as head coach last December.
Berra’s arrival as the new skipper leaves Kitchen on the fringes of the squad and he needs to play regularly to keep his international place with the USA.
Cathro was reluctant to speak publicly about his discussion with the 25-year-old but the player is expected to leave before the new season begins.
“That’s something for us, naturally he’s not had a great time personally having not been in the side as often as any player would have liked but that’s a personal thing,” said Cathro.
“These are things that happen as a team evolves, as a team grows and moves on. This is a natural thing and we all move forward. It’s important that the [captain’s] role is a more constant role and it’s also important that we have a number of players who live their lives like that.” Rangers had declared an interest in signing Berra, who left Ipswich Town earlier this month fully intent on returning to Tynecastle. He believes Hearts can soon challenge for honours in Scotland once again.
“I don’t have an agent but my old agent mentioned there had been some interest from Rangers, although there was never anything on the table,” said the Scotland centre-back.
“To be honest, I always wanted to come back here. I’m from Edinburgh and I know what the club means to the Hearts fans. Even when I left Hearts and was playing down in England I’d always watch the derby games and miss them.
“I always had it in my mind I’d like to finish my career here and hopefully I’ve now got the opportunity. Hopefully, we’re going to get some good players in this summer. I want to get back to cup finals and to challenge at the top end of the table.
“We all know it’s difficult to topple Celtic at the moment but we want to be challenging Aberdeen and Rangers to get back to where we belong, qualifying for Europe.
“I’ve had conversations to the manager and it’s very exciting. We’ve got a vision so now it’s about getting the right players on the pitch who can carry that out.’’