Hearts midfielder Arnuad Djoum dreaming of lining up Manchester United tie in Europa League



As a kid, Hearts midfielder Arnaud Djoum was mesmerised by the sight of Manchester United lighting up the Champions League.

The mouth-watering prospect of locking horns with the English giants in the Europa League is now one that fills the Belgian with excitement.

Hearts want to join some of European football’s illustrious names in the group stages. The likes of Jose Mourinho’s United, Inter Milan, Fiorentina and Athletic Bilbao all enter the competition at that point.

Arnaud Djoum 1000pxTo advance that far, Robbie Neilson’s side will have to successfully negotiate four ties, starting with a visit of Estonia side Infonet in this evening’s first qualifying round first leg at Tynecastle.

While focussing on the task at hand, Djoum cannot resist the temptation to look ahead.

“It would be amazing to get to the group stages, because you don’t think about it, you only dream about it,” said the 27-year-old.

“We could play against really big European teams and that’s just a dream. It would be really great if we could achieve it.

“Who would I like to face? An English team like Manchester United, or something like that.

“As a kid I used to watch the Champions League; Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool and Manchester United.

“You used to dream about it. It’s not the Champions League but the Europa League is a European competition and it’s exciting to say that in my career I’m playing in this kind of game.”

A clash against Belgian opposition would also naturally appeal to Djoum. Standard Liege, Gent and Genk all enter the Europa League at various stages.

He added: “A Belgian team as well. That would be great for me because I have a lot of friends there and it would be nice.”

Djoum more than pulled his weight in helping Hearts claim a Europa League berth with a third place finish in the Premiership.

The former Lech Poznan playmaker made 32 appearances after joining last September.

The chance to pit his wits in Europe was part of the attraction of moving to Edinburgh in the first place.

He added: “It’s a club where I fitted in well, that has given me a lot of confidence.

“I know that I have the opportunity to play at the top of the league and to play European football, it is important for a player to play these type of games.

“This will be my first European game, that’s why it’s so exciting to play for the first time in my career European football.

“I think it’ll be a hard game because we don’t know much about the team we will play.

“It won’t be easy but we just have to focus on ourselves and play like we did last season, and being at Tynecastle can make a big difference.”

Infonet will have the advantage of being fully match fit, having already played 17 games in their domestic campaign. The Tallinn club are just a point adrift at the summit.

Hearts only returned to pre-season training a fortnight ago but Djoum is adamant that they will be ready.

He added: “It’s hard to say we are 100 percent but I think it is really close.

“Everybody came in good shape from the break because you have to train during the break.

“Everybody is ready to play this game.

“For almost everybody it will be the first time playing European football, so it is exciting to do a good job in this competition.”