BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HEARTS are hopeful of completing a deal to re-sign Christophe Berra after the Scotland defender left Ipswich Town to be closer to his family in Scotland.
The 32-year-old will be available on a free transfer next month after he persuaded the Tractor Boys not to activate their option of a one-year extension to his deal, despite manager Mick McCarthy stating his desire to keep their club captain at Portman Road.
It is understood Berra, who started his career at Tynecastle, is one of the Jambos prime summer targets as head coach Ian Cathro looks to add experience and quality to a shaky backline.
Berra’s availability is likely to prompt a surge of interest, with Hearts are aware that other suitors will be able to offer more handsome salaries. However Tynecastle chiefs believe the emotional attachment to the club where he made 146 appearances between 2003 and 2009 could prove pivotal.
The presence of current director of football Craig Levein is also a major draw, given he is the man who gave Berra his Hearts debut and also worked with him on international duty while manager of Scotland.
Rangers have been credited with the former Wolves star, who boasts 16 caps for the national side, with Berra fitting the bill of strong characters and veterans of big occasions desired by Pedro Caixinha as he embarks on his rebuilding job at Ibrox.
Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy told ITFC.co.uk: “It’s a situation we have been aware of for some time. He is not doing anything devious, he just wants to spend more time with his daughter and anyone with family can respect that.
“Christophe has been fantastic for us. He has been one of the best defenders in the Championship over the last four years and I didn’t want to lose him but I understand fully why he wants to go back closer to home and we wish him well.”