ARNAUD DJOUM insists he is returning to Tynecastle on cloud nine after his boyhood hero Clarence Seedorf crowned him Cameroon’s new number 10.
The Hearts star readily admits he was starstruck when he first reported for international duty under new national team boss Seedorf last year, having ‘
However, the 29-year-old has wasted no time in dazzling the Dutchman, with Djoum handed a pivotal role in midfield for their crunch Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Comoros on Saturday.
Needing a draw to assure their place at this summer’s Africa Cup of Nations, Djoum notched an assist on his 20th cap and helped the Indomitable Lions cruise to a 3-0 triumph in Yaounde.
And Djoum revealed that, given the distinction with which Seedorf sported it with the likes of AC Milan and Real Madrid, it was the number on his back that left him lost for words.
He smiled: “When he gave me the No.10 jersey, that was like a dream.
“When a player like him thinks you can do that role in the team, it shows that you must be doing something right.
“When I was a little younger, I used to look at his style and he was one of my idols in football. He is the sort of player you could look at and say: ‘that’s who I want to be!’
“The first time I met him, it was just enough to see him in front of me and shake his hand. It was like ‘I used to watch you on TV!’ You don’t think that one day he will be your coach.
“But it becomes very professional quickly and I trained hard and worked to impress him. I’m very happy that he has been pleased with me.
“He played in a similar position to me and I just want to listen to him and learn from him all the time. The attention to detail is incredible and he knows that the tiniest things can make the biggest difference at the top level.”
As well as securing safe passage to the showpiece in Egypt, Djoum reckons the impressive nature of their triumph is a statement of intent as Cameroon seek to make it two in a row.
Djoum, who arrived in Gorgie amid little fanfare in September 2015 after being released by Lech Poznan, is now among the national heroes who brought the trophy back in 2017.
And he acknowledges that only repeating the feat will be good enough for the five-time continental champions.
Djoum continued: “It was the perfect time to put in such a good performance, with the African Nations Cup coming up. It was like saying ‘Cameroon is still here’. We are going there to defend our title successfully.
“A country like Cameroon should always be aiming to win trophies. We have many on the team who were part of the team that won it last time and we know what it takes.
“We can encourage the players who have not, teach them what it takes to go all the way to the final of
That is far from the only piece of silverware in his sights as Djoum pursues a trophy-laden finale to the campaign.
While his initial focus is on an ‘unbelievable’ run of games against Aberdeen, Rangers
Hearts face Championship side Inverness in the semi-final and, should they progress, will cross swords with Celtic or Aberdeen in May.
Djoum continued: “Everything that has happened this week has given me a lot of positive energy.
“I have already been thinking about what it would be like to win the Scottish Cup. Winning a trophy with Hearts is something I want to achieve so much and I really believe we have the quality in the team to do it.
“We need to prepare properly, take Inverness very seriously, and then try to do something very special at Hampden. I hope that is not just a dream; it can come true.”
Djoum, meanwhile, has broken his silence regarding his future and revealed he has not ruled out extending his stay in the capital after he was linked with a switch to French side Toulouse.
Jambos boss Craig Levein has made no secret of his desire to keep Djoum – out of contract this summer – but has acknowledged that could prove difficult with a swathe of interest expected in the player.
He added: “I haven’t made any decision on my future yet. I just want to focus on finishing the season as strongly as possible with Hearts.
“Important games are coming up and it would be unfair if I was not totally concentrated on what can do for my club.
“I will try to help Hearts win a trophy and at the end of the season I will talk to my family and make the decision.”