Hearts defender John Souttar 'would be worth eight figures' if it weren't for injury troubles

Ex-Hearts boss Craig Levein believes John Souttar would today be worth £10million at the very least if it weren’t for his injury problems as he welcomed news of a potential new contract for the defender.

Thursday, 12th August 2021, 7:00 am
John Souttar and Craig Levein during the latter's tenure as Hearts manager in 2019. Picture: SNS

As revealed in yesterday’s Evening News, the Tynecastle side have began discussions with the Scottish international over prolonging his stay with his current deal due to expire at the end of the season.

Souttar, 24, has missed the best part of three seasons due to a dreadful series of injuries, including rupturing his Achilles for a second and third time in his short career.

He’s been excellent since returning to Robbie Neilson’s first-team squad, including scoring the winner in the recent 2-1 win over Celtic. His old manager reckons it makes perfect sense for the centre-back to get some stability for the time being, even though the call of riches and potentially playing in the English Premier League would be a temptation hard to ignore.

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“If he hadn't had the injuries he's easily a player worth eight figures,” said Levein. “People might look at that and laugh, but where do you find a centre-back who is quick, who is strong, aggressive, tall and possibly his best asset is his passing of the ball? These type of guys are going for £50million down in England.

“John's problem is that he hasn't played much football in the last three years and I think it makes sense for him to play another season or two [at Hearts] to get the number of games under his belt back up and get himself back into the national team.

“I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I would bet he's appreciative of everything Hearts have done for him.

“I'm not surprised they're in contract negotiations. I just hope they can come to some sort of amicable agreement. Because, on the other hand, the chance to move down to the Premier League or a big club in the Championship might never come around again.”

There are similarities to be drawn between Souttar and the man who both coached and helped bring him to Gorgie in 2016 during Levein’s time as director of football.

The ex-Scotland manager was forced to quit the game at 29 and never got the big move from Hearts that his talents deserved after a series of devastating knee injuries. However, having seen Souttar in action since his return, he doesn’t believe there has been any lasting effect as he keeps his fingers crossed the player can stay relatively injury-free from now on.

“Obviously you can look upon the two circumstances as similar. And, yes, it is probably a case of improvement in medical science that John looks just as good as ever,” said Levein. “The surgeon who performed the operation on John has done a fantastic job, though I wouldn't be critical in any sense of the surgeons who tried to help me.

“For me it was a career-long battle of getting over the first problem, getting back to playing for a few years and then having it happen again. I'm just praying that John gets to see out the rest of his career without any serious impediments and can show everybody just how good he can be.”

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