Having rubbed shoulders with the likes of Chile’s Alexis Sanchez and Germany’s Julian Draxler at the Confederations Cup this summer, Arnaud Djoum admits he must produce his best performances in maroon to ensure he has the chance of playing at the highest level he can achieve.
The Cameroon internationalist is fully aware that won’t happen unless he gets back to his very best for Hearts.
The midfielder returned to the squad on July 17, having been given time off after taking part in FIFA’s warm up tournament for next summer’s World Cup in Russia.
His return to domestic action wasn’t a good one as Hearts went down to a shock 2-1 defeat at League Two Peterhead. It leaves Ian Cathro’s team needing to beat Dunfermline at Tynecastle today to ensure qualification from Group B.
An in-form Djoum would increase their chances, as the Belgian-born 28-year-old hopes to reproduce the displays that have seen him linked with the likes of Bordeaux and won him his place in the Indomitable Lions squad.
“It was a very good experience,” he said of the tournament. “I played against big players and big teams so it’s always good to have this kind of experience. We tried to do the best we could but we did not get the results.
“Against Germany I was up against (Julian) Draxler, Emre Can, those kind of players. Against Chile I played against Vidal and Alexis Sanchez so it was a great experience.
“The level, how quickly they play, how smart they are. You try to do the same and learn, it’s not easy but I try to learn to when I play against this type of player. It was a nice experience and I learn a lot from these types of games.
“For sure it gives me a boost to do the best I can do to achieve and get to the highest level. I know I need to work hard because it’s not easy to get to this kind of level. We’ll see what happens in the future but I will give everything to train hard and play well to get to this level.”
That ambition can only be realised by doing the business in maroon, which Djoum didn’t since returning from a triumphant African Cup of Nations campaign in February. While moving on eventually is probably inevitable, the former Lech Poznan player is quick to acknowledge the role his current club has played in his development.
“I still have two years on my contract at Hearts,” he highlighted. “If a club comes for me and Hearts are happy, we can make a solution but if not I would be happy to stay here as well because Hearts gave me the chance to show myself and be a national team player. I need to give respect to them so we’ll see. If a club comes in for me, I’ll speak to Hearts and see if they’re happy for me to go.”
Should that not come to fruition, Djoum is just as content to remain in Edinburgh for the duration of his contract. “If need be, because I feel really happy here, with the players and the fans,” he said. “If I need to stay then I will stay.
“The press said I want to go but it’s not that I want to leave, if another club come then I have ambition. I am really focused here but if another club come for me and this club wants it then I will speak with the club. But no team has come in so I am really focused on Hearts.”
In the more immediate future, the focus is on progressing in the Betfred Cup after Tuesday’s woes. “We all knew it was a bad performance and result,” insisted Djoum. “Now we try to forget and focus on the Dunfermline game. We need a good performance and to win this game.”
That would help ease the pressure on Ian Cathro, who Djoum was quick to back. “Yes, because his ideas are good,” he replied when asked if confidence in his manager remained high. “When you play football, you want to get the ball at your feet and play short passes and get on the ball and be a strong team and this is what he says in the dressing-room and on the training ground. We try to play the best football we can play so, for me, I am 100 per cent behind him because it is football the way I want it to.”