BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
CRAIG LEVEIN has come out fighting in the battle to hold on to Callum Paterson beyond January, insisting the Scotland star will not leave Tynecastle for a penny under £1 million.
The Jambos director of football was in bullish mood at the capital club’s annual general meeting when quizzed about the future of the marauding right-back, who has been attracting interest from the likes of Wigan, Cardiff and Derby.
Levein officially confirmed that Hearts turned down £550,000 for Paterson in August and, while he will leave the club at the end of the season, the Gorgie outfit are in no rush to wave goodbye to one of their prize assets next month.
Hearts are guaranteed to pocket €450,000 (£378,583) in compensation if he, as expected, signs for a Uefa acknowledged ‘Category One’ club and, given his impact on where the Jambos finish this term, Levein is happy to let the player see out his deal.
Levein said: “Callum Paterson will still be here unless we receive a seven-figure sum. That is a fact.
“Wigan made an offer that would have guaranteed us £550,000 but if we are going to sell our best players and just be recognised as a team that sells at the first sign of an offer, then teams will keep knocking on our door and taking our players for next to nothing.
“It was important in January that we dug our heels in with Osman Sow and said ‘he is not going unless we get the right amount of money’, and we’ll do the same this January.
“We have made numerous attempts to keep Callum but he is a strong willed boy. He made his mind up, in spite of numerous offers of new deals which he has rejected. We are at a stage where he might move in January, if the number is big enough. If not, we will wait until the summer.”
Levein, meanwhile, confirmed that there will be scope for new head coach Ian Cathro to do business next month – as the capital club continue their “risky” approach to the transfer window.
The club’s recruitment is under the microscope following a weekend that saw Connor Sammon ironically cheered by an unforgiven portion of the home crowd during Hearts 1-1 draw against Partick Thistle.
While not referring directly to the under-fire Irishman, Levein acknowledges that their attempts to improve the squad are not foolproof and insists the acid test will always be whether the players have the bottle to handle playing at Tynecastle.
He continued: “We made a conscious decision to take some risks and try to get players better than what we could afford – and in some cases it has worked extremely well for us. I would even argue that some of the ‘less risky’ signings are the ones that haven’t worked.
“You cut out risk by buying a player from Scotland who has played in this league for a number of years. But even then, this is not an easy place to play. You can do as many checks as you like, and look at their character, but when they pressure is on, maybe they can’t handle it.
“The nature of football is that we don’t have a level of budget that we can guarantee they will all be successes. What we are hoping is that we will get more right than wrong.
“In this period, as we wait for our own young players are coming through, we will continue to take risks and get some right and get some wrong.
“Fans can look out there and pick the players they like and the players they don’t think, but every one that is signed is done so in a bid to make the team stronger.”