Igor Rossi is willing to commit the peak years of his career to Hearts if offered a new contract.
The Brazilian’s existing deal expires at the end of the season, but today he revealed he would happily sign for another three or four years.
At 27, Rossi has found contentment in Scotland and discovered a brand of football suited to his aggressive, dominant style of defending. He is a key component of the Hearts team and won the club’s players’ player of the year award last season – his first year in British football.
The player discussed his future candidly with the Evening News and declared his wish to sign a contract extension. He is in no immediate rush given his current agreement has eight months to run, but he is happy to pledge several more years to Hearts if given the opportunity.
Hearts officials have held tentative talks with Sam Nicholson and Alim Ozturk about extending their stays with the club. Rossi is hopeful that Craig Levein, Hearts’ director of football, will contact his agent over the next few weeks to begin negotiations.
“It’s very important for me that I am playing every week. I am getting better and better and I am happy. I like it here and I am very happy with this club. At the moment, I don’t know if I will get a new contract. Hearts have not spoken to me so far.
“In this moment, I will stay and whether Hearts talk to me or not, I don’t know. Just now, I want to play in the next game. I think it will be next month or in two months that I will talk to Hearts. There is eight months until my contract is finished so that is a long time.
“Hearts is a fantastic club. For me, it is good for three years, four years, but I don’t know right now. I won’t speak to Robbie about my contract. I think Craig will speak to my agent. So far, there is nothing.
“Right here, this is my club. I am playing every game, I think the coach likes me as a player, last year I was the club’s player of the year. I am very happy with the fans and with this club. They have been helping me every day and that is important for a player’s confidence.”
Rossi’s wife has also settled in the Capital since the player arrived last summer. He previously spent five years in Portugal with Maritimo and joined Hearts as a free agent in July 2015. With a wry smile, he admitted that adapting to the Scottish climate initially took some time.
“My wife is here and she is happy. It is cold, but she is happy,” smirked the amiable centre-back. “Last year, we found it very cold but now it is normal. I like Edinburgh as a city, I like the people in Scotland, the fans are fantastic.”
Much of Rossi’s fulfilment stems from the fact he is ideally suited to the physicality of the Scottish league. In fact, he may well be the most un-Brazilian Brazilian to play the game. Stepovers and dainty flicks aren’t for him. He prefers screaming into tackles and battling with opponents. The devoted approach has fully endeared him to the Hearts public.
“I like Scottish football,” he smiled. “In Scotland, the game is very aggressive. I think this is good for me because I like contact. I believe it suits me. I was in Portugal for five years but Portugal is not the same as Scotland. It is strong but Scotland is stronger. Portugal is more physical than Brazil, but Scotland is more physical than Portugal. It is more aggressive in this league but I like that.”
He helped Hearts record a clean sheet against Ross County at the weekend, although his disappointment with the 0-0 draw is something he doesn’t try to hide. He and his colleagues wanted three points to keep pace with Celtic at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership. They certainly had the chances to secure that victory.
“It was a very good game from us, especially in the first half,” said Rossi. “We had four or five chances but we didn’t score. That makes it difficult because the other team got more confidence, their players believed.
“I still think we played a good game. We also had a good game against St Johnstone in our last match and, with more confidence, we could score our chances.
“The defence was very solid. I think we were the same at St Johnstone but three points is more important. For the defensive players, the confidence is very good. For Jack Hamilton, me, John Souttar, Alim Ozturk, we are all feeling good because we kept a clean sheet.”
Souttar was forced off with an injury after 30 minutes and was replaced by Ozturk. Having lost the Hearts captain’s armband to Perry Kitchen last week, the Turk showed commendable resolve coming off the substitutes’ bench. Rossi explained the level of competition driving the defenders on.
“We have four players who are very good in central defence. Me, Alim, Soapy [Souttar] and [Krystian] Nowak all fight for places. I think we help each other because we train hard every day. I want to play, Souttar wants to play, Alim wants to play and Nowak wants to play. Only two players can play.”
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