The Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock today revealed how he told Loic Damour to choose Hearts over Charlton Athletic and other English clubs.
Describing the French midfielder as “a manager’s dream”, Warnock detailed conversations between the pair in an exclusive Evening News interview.
The Hearts manager Craig Levein pursued Damour for several weeks before finally signing him on a four-year contract last month. He was initially rebuffed by Warnock, who wanted to keep the versatile 28-year-old as a squad player following Cardiff’s relegation to the English Championship. Once persuaded to release him, Warnock advised Damour to rebuff interest from several English teams and head to Edinburgh.
“A few clubs down here wanted him – Charlton and another couple,” explained the 70-year-old. “But I said to him: ‘Edinburgh is the place, Loic. It’s a gorgeous place.’ I’ve always wanted to manage up there. I like Craig and I told Loic that if Craig is in for him then that’s the one to choose. Craig had rung me for about five weeks about him. At first I said ‘no chance’ but he wore me down.
“I think Craig made it clear how much he wanted to sign him. When the lad spoke to me about Charlton, I said: ‘Loic, you can’t afford to live in London. it’s unbelievable. In Edinburgh, you’ll be in the team, you’ll love the city, the fans are fantastic and Craig is a good bloke.’ I just thought it fitted him, really.
“I think he’ll do a good job for Hearts and when Craig asked me about him, I didn’t want to let him go. The lads here love him and I can’t say a bad word about him. He does get silly bookings at times but that would be my only complaint.
“He came to me and said: ‘Gaffer, I’ve got to play games.’ A lot of people would just have kept him here, just to have in the squad. He wasn’t one of our high earners but when he came to see me I felt for him. He said he had to be playing so I said: ‘Loic, Hearts is your club.’”
Damour has played in three of Hearts’ four games since arriving at Tynecastle Park and looks a tidy and combative central midfielder. Warnock is certain he could also flourish further forward if necessary.
“I think he will be suited to Scotland. For me, he is underestimated. Because he is so into everything with all the tackling, you think that’s his game but he can play as well. He played quite a few games behind the striker the year we went up from the Championship [2017/18]. He showed a good eye for a pass. I don’t know whether Craig knows he’s done that.
“When you look at the defensive side of Loic’s game, it can take your eye off the rest. He can see a pass when he’s breaking forward.”
Cardiff signed Damour in 2017 from the French second division club Bourg-Péronnas. He left eastern France for the Welsh capital and made a lasting impression on Warnock during City’s incredible run into the English Premier League.
After the international break, he will play an important role as Hearts try to move away from the bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership.
“He is a manager’s dream. An absolute manager’s dream,” said Warnock. “Every day in training, he’s the same as how he plays. I mean, some of his tackles are rash at times but he is so genuine. I didn’t want him to go. I’d have him in my squad every day of the week.
“If you pick up an injury or two here, he will play anywhere in midfield. He played on the left, the right, then in the No.10 role, then he played in front of the back four for me.
“He is one of them players a manager will always have in his squad.”