Craig Levein today revealed his disappointment at 16-year-old Marc Leonard’s decision to leave Hearts for Brighton.
The midfielder is close to finalising a move south which could earn the Edinburgh club up to £350,000 depending on his progress. However, manager Levein feels he is making a mistake.
Leonard only signed his first professional Hearts contract last summer and hasn’t made a first-team appearance. He made clear his wish to play in England when Brighton made their move, leaving Levein frustrated.
“Marc has decided he doesn’t want to play in Scotland, he wants to play in England instead. It’s disappointing and I have to say I find it really strange,” he said.
“I don’t want any of our kids to go down to England until they are first-team players but he has made his decision. I think he is a good player, he has come through at the same time as the other lads who have made it into the first team.
“I like him, he’s a good footballer but I just don’t agree with his reasoning for going. He is a nice kid and I wish him all the best in the future.”
Hearts are continuing their attempts to sign new players this month. They have made an enquiry about the Scotland internationalist Steven Naismith, who is available for a transfer or loan at Norwich City. Levein isn’t keen to be drawn on the subject publicly. “I’m not interested in talking about Steven so I have nothing to tell you just now. It’s something I read about and if there’s something to tell, I will say,” he commented.
Hearts opened their winter training camp in Spain with a 1-1 draw against Vitesse Arnhem at the Oliva Nova resort yesterday afternoon. A late free-kick by Andy Irving equalised Bryan Linssen’s first-half header. “I was really pleased with the way the game went, we have had time off so it was about getting your eye back in,” said Levein. “It was competitive so I felt it was worthwhile.
“The team we played in the second half was really young and, on paper, I was a wee bit worried about it but they were really good. Arguably we played better football in the second half, so I’m really happy.
“Harry Cochrane was excellent, when he got the ball he looked real quality even against the calibre of player Vitesse have.”