Hearts to bring European giants Liverpool, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea, Anderlecht and Arsenal to Riccarton
Hearts are bringing European giants Liverpool, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea, Anderlecht and Arsenal to Riccarton next year - with Barcelona and Manchester City possibly joining them.
The Hearts Invitational youth tournament ran for the second year at Edinburgh's Oriam complex last weekend, and some of the Continent's biggest clubs have confirmed they will attend next summer.
Barcelona and Manchester City are still to decide whether to take part, but Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea will travel north from England, plus Juventus from Italy, Dortmund from Germany and the Belgian club Anderlecht.
They are bringing youth teams at different age levels to compete against Hearts following the success of last year's and this year's events. The competition is organised on the Tynecastle club's behalf by AM Sports Tours, owned by the Hearts assistant coach Austin MacPhee.
"We are very excited about next year. We have Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea confirmed, plus Juventus, Borussia Dortmund and Anderlecht. We hope to get confirmation from Manchester City and Barcelona," said MacPhee, speaking to Hearts TV.
"What this does is make the academy a special place for young players to play. If we're competing to sign a young player who might sign for Rangers or Celtic - but we have the opportunity to play against Juventus and Barcelona - it might be the difference in him signing for Hearts.
"The other thing is does is allow us constant dialogue with some of the biggest clubs in the world. It's amazing how an introduction from the academy to the first-team staff could potentially open up a loan or interest in your own players. It really puts Hearts on the map with Champions League clubsas we continue to try and grow the club off the pitch."
Arsenal and Brighton featured at Oriam at the weekend against Hearts, Hibs, Rangers and Motherwell, plus Orange County Soccer Club and Legends FC from California. The two-day event was a rousing success as Hearts' 2007 side were crowned the eventual winners.
They won all three ties on Saturday before finishing the job 24 hours later. On Sunday, they beat Legends 2-0 before drawing with Brighton and winning the subsequent penalty shootout. Finally, the Riccarton youngsters overcame Edinburgh rivals Hibs with a 2-0 victory to lift the trophy.
"What we want to do is expose the young players in the academy to a higher level of competition," explained MacPhee. "Obviously, at this stage, we can't afford to fly them round the world. If we can host a major event here with clubs like Brighton and Arsenal, two clubs from the US, Hearts plus three Scottish teams, it gives them an opportunity to see where they are globally."