Hearts face competition from Rangers in their pursuit of Scotland centre-back Christophe Berra, the Evening News can reveal.
Both clubs want to bring the 32-year-old north this summer if he secures his exit from Ipswich Town.
The English Championship side have an option to extend Berra’s contract for another season beyond this campaign but the player is keen to return to Scotland. His future hinges on whether Ipswich will invoke that option and keep him in Suffolk.
Hearts have been waiting in the wings since January poised to move if he became available and Rangers are also ready to compete for his signature.
Berra is aware of the interest from Edinburgh and Glasgow but cannot make a decision until Ipswich confirm their plans for him. Whoever Rangers name as their new manager may also have a bearing on his next destination.
Rangers could offer more money than Hearts if it came down to a straight financial fight between the two. However, Berra is intrigued by the thought of returning to Tynecastle and rejoining his formative club.
He came through the Hearts youth academy and made his senior debut under Craig Levein, now the club’s director of football, in 2003.
He became club captain and eventually secured a £2.3million transfer to Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2009. He joined Ipswich in July 2013 but is now ready to end his time in England and return north.
With 34 Scotland caps and eight years experience south of the Border, both Rangers and Hearts see Berra as a player who would offer leadership and guidance in defence next season.