Hearts reveal transfer recruitment drive for European squad

Hearts will undertake a summer recruitment drive to increase squad size if they qualify for European football.

Sporting director Joe Savage and manager Robbie Neilson are planning to sign several new players to reinforce the first-team pool and provide options to cope with foreign and domestic matches.

The Edinburgh club are close to securing third place in the Premiership, which guarantees a spot in the Europa Conference League qualifying rounds next season. Should they win the Scottish Cup – or if Celtic or Rangers win it – Hearts would likely secure a place in August’s Europa League play-off round.

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The loser at that stage would parachute into the Conference League and play European group-stage matches through to November. Hearts’ first-team squad currently contains 21 players but some of those, such as defender John Souttar, will be leaving at the end of the season.

Hearts are already planning ahead for European football next season.

“We need to bulk it up a wee bit,” admitted Neilson. “We spoke about that and will probably add more numbers to the group. It will all depend on how the season finishes for us. If we can guarantee Europe then we can invest a bit more. If we have to go through a qualifier, we will need to wait. There are still ifs and buts.”

Neilson is without four injured players for Saturday’s Premiership trip to Ross County – Beni Baningime, Michael Smith, Cammy Devlin and Souttar.

“I think Cammy is back running this week,” he said. “Michael might be this week, maybe the following. We’re still hopeful we can get John back before the end of the season. Whether we get him back for the derbies against Hibs we’re unsure.”

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