HEARTS have been told to forget about a January move to bring Christophe Berra back to the club after Mick McCarthy branded speculation surrounding the defender as ‘nuts’.
Berra was reported to be in the process of negotiating his release from the final few months of his contract with Ipswich Town, with Hearts poised to take him back to Tynecastle.
The 31-year-old spoke earlier in the season of a desire to return at some point to his native Edinburgh, where he has a daughter, and a summer move back to the Jambos is still a possibilty.
However, McCarthy – who back in October claimed Berra was the best defender in the English Championship – has dismissed out of hand any talk of a settlement being reached this month to allow the Scotland internationalist to head back north of the border.
The Portman Road boss even revealed Ipswich have an option to extend the Berra’s contract by a further season if they want.
Berra joined Ipswich in 2013 to be reunited with McCarthy, who signed the stopper from Hearts in 2009, and has played every game bar one for the Tractor Boys this season.
McCarthy blasted: “That is just ridiculous. Have you seen how many players we’ve had recently, the squad and the substitutes we’ve had?
“And I would be settling up Christophe Berra’s contract, who has played every single game? I don’t think so.
“How ridiculous that rumour is. There are rumours that might be close to the truth, but that’s as far away from the truth as you can get. It’s nuts.
“He’s not heading back [to Scotland] now. He’s got eight weeks off in the summer, he can do what he wants then!
“We’ve got an option on him [to activate a clause in his contract for another 12 months]. He’s our player for the next 18 months if that’s what we want to do.”
McCarthy added to www.eadt.co.uk: “I can’t see any reason why I wouldn’t want to keep Christophe Berra. He’s been different class, he’s arguably been our best defender for the last four years.
“He’s certainly been one of the top ones and has consistently played. He’s staying here as far as I’m concerned.”
Hearts head coach Ian Cathro will be seeking defensive reinforcements this month, however, with Igor Rossi following Alim Ozturk out of the Tynecastle exit door last week and Faycal Rherras currently on duty with Morocco at the African Cup of Nations, as well as Callum Paterson sidelined with a knee injury.
Experienced Northern Ireland internationalist Aaron Hughes and former Hamilton Accies Lennard Sowah have been drafted in but the Gorgie men remain light in the centre of defence.