BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
Hearts last night completed their fourth summer signing after snapping up Brazilian defender Igor Rossi Branco.
The 26-year-old joins from Portuguese Primeira Liga outfit Maritimo as the Jambos continue to strengthen ahead of their return to the Scottish Premiership.
Branco, who cuts an imposing figure at 6ft 3in, has penned a one-year deal and follows Gavin Reilly, Juanma Delgado and fellow stopper Blazej Augustyn to Tynecastle.
And he revealed that the performances of Celtic in Europe, allied with Hearts’ romp to the Championship title last season, helped to sell him on a move to Gorgie.
He said: “I had seen Scottish sides in Europe, particularly Celtic and the Scottish national side.
“When I was aware of Hearts interest I read up quite a bit about them and saw that they won the league by a huge margin over Rangers so I was very impressed.
“Robbie [Neilson] was very impressive and he explained to me his ambition for the club, where he expects us to be in the future and how he wants the team to play.
“Craig [Levein] also spoke very well to me and I was immediately convinced that I should come to Edinburgh and play for Hearts.”
Branco, whose Italian passport ensured there was no need to attain a work permit, started his career with Brazilian giants Internacional before enjoying a brief spell on loan with Nautico in the country’s second tier.
He joined Maritimo in 2011 and has went onto make almost 60 appearances, flitting between the club’s senior and ‘B’ side.
The Sao Paolo-born defender arrives with continental experience after representing the Madeira club in the Europa League, crossing swords with FC Dila and Club Brugge during the 2012/13 campaign.
Branco told Hearts’ official website: “I believe I will bring good experience from my five years playing in Portuguese football and in the Europa League.
“I am a leader, I play aggressively and with a lot of passion and I like to have the ball at my feet and play from the back. From what I have seen this is the Hearts way.”