Hearts boss Craig Levein insists Steven Naismith could be risking his Euro 2020 aspirations with Scotland if he chooses to chase an American Dream

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BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport

CRAIG LEVEIN believes Steven Naismith could jeopardise a once in a generation opportunity to represent Scotland at a major finals if he chooses to continue his career in the United States.

The Hearts manager has confirmed that he discussed the prospect of a switch to Major League Soccer with Naismith amid reports of interest from across the pond, but remains steadfastly hopeful of persuading the former Rangers and Everton striker to extend his stay at Tynecastle beyond the summer.

The 32-year-old is understood to be amenable to the idea of moving to America, with the improving level of football allied with the standard of living for his young family a significant selling point.

CRAIG LEVEIN at a press conference

However, he is also relishing his standing as arguably Hearts’ most important player and faces a quandary when his contract with Norwich expires at the end of the season.

Naismith has scored 13 goals for the Jambos this term, earning him a recall to the Scotland side after an 18-month absence. He grasped that opportunity admirably, hitting the net in encounters against Albania and Portugal.

After topping their Nations League section, Scotland will effectively get another crack at Euro 2020 qualification later this year should they fail to emerge from their group.

And Levein is adamant staying at Hearts will give Naismith the ideal platform to be a major part of Alex McLeish’s plans.

“Through his efforts at Hearts he has got himself back in to the Scotland squad and scored important goals at that level,” Levein explained. “All being well, we probably have the best opportunity as a national team to qualify for a major international tournament that we have for a very long time.

(Pic: Hearts FC)

“I’m sure Naisy would be part of that as it stands. There is a whole generation of players that have never played in a major tournament and Naisy could be part of Euro 2020, which has come due to his performances here.

“He is so well respected and liked here and the impact he has had at this club is quite important – and I think it is good for him to be important. He has already spent a spell latterly at Norwich where he was out of the picture and I think he has thrived coming back into the spotlight.

“I’d be hopeful that he is enjoying it enough at Hearts to stay.

“My view is that Naisy is such a competitive boy that I don’t think he’ll enjoy it if someone beside him doesn’t have the same mindset. I’m not saying MLS isn’t competitive but I think Naisy’s character is perfect for Scottish football.”

Levein added with a smile: “I’ve actually sent an e-mail to Alex [McLeish] asking him: ‘If anyone goes to MLS, would you consider not picking them?’”

Meanwhile, Hearts youngster Marcus Godinho insists he is determined to grasp his opportunity to become a first-team mainstay at Tynecastle after Michael Smith became the latest man to fall foul of the Gorgie injury jinx.

Smith, who Godinho has hailed as a constant source of inspiration, will miss around four months with a torn thigh muscle, meaning the Canadian international will come into the side to face Motherwell on Sunday.

“It was hard to see Michael go out because I am close with him,” said Godinho. “We get on well, he’s a great guy. I am always trying to learn from him.

“He’s maybe not as noticeable on the pitch as Christophe [Berra] and Naisy [Steven Naismith] – he doesn’t shout as much as the other two – but he passes on great advice and from watching and speaking to him, there is so much to learn.

“It’s the same on the training pitch, he’ll give me lots of pointers.

“Even after the injury, I’m sure if he’s watching the games and there are things I don’t do well or stuff I can do better he will be the first to tell me!”

Godinho added: “However, now the opportunity is there for me and I am determined to make this my spot now. This is the chance I have been waiting for.”

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