DANIEL STENDEL, the Hearts head coach, has confirmed he consulted club owner Ann Budge before making former captain Christophe Berra available for transfer.
And the German has claimed that it is the Scotland internationalist’s own decision to train with the reserves while his future remains shrouded in uncertainty.
Stendel told Hearts’ official website earlier this week that he had treated the 33-year-old with ‘respect’ but, in his first media conference since wielding the axe, he expanded on his reasoning and conceded that it is a difficult situation to navigate.
“I can understand that he [Berra] is not happy. Which player would be happy? Especially with his career and with his history at the club.
“I think it’s very difficult to find a situation where all parties would be happy. The bad thing for all of us at the moment is we have too many players in the squad, we need to change some positions and we have no time.
“I spoke with Christophe to explain our feelings, that it would be difficult for him to play as many games as he expected.
“He is the skipper of the team and I wanted to give him the chance to think about the situation, what he wants. I don’t want him to not be in the squad at the weekend – and everyone is asking ‘why not?’”
While there is a widespread acceptance among most Hearts supporters that Berra’s form had declined abruptly in recent months, the fact he is training with the reserve side has raised plenty of eyebrows.
However, Stendel is adamant that was the player’s call.
“We haven’t said he needed to train with the reserves – he wanted to train with the reserves,” added Stendel. “If your boss says you no longer work, but you’re next to those who are still working . . . it’s no good for anyone.
“We want to find the best solution. We have 12 days but, at the moment, I have no news from him in terms of whether he wants to stay or play for another club.
“In the end, this isn’t my job. I’ve had a talk with him but he will decide.”
Stendel has already allowed Glenn Whelan and Aidan Keena to leave and has confirmed that Jake Mulraney ‘may be leaving in the next few days’ amid interest from the United States.
Colin Doyle and Craig Wighton are also thought to be available for transfer.
As yet, however, Hearts are yet to sign a single player – with their need for a striker particularly glaring.
“We have tried to bring players in but it’s taking longer than I expected,” he added. “It’s not so easy to bring players in.
“We’ve said what we want but the player has to want to come to us. His club needs to release him and when not all sides say yes, we have no chance to sign the player. We’re working long and hard every day to change this.
“We need players that can help us immediately and our focus is on the offence. We need a scorer.
“As an example from the last game against Aberdeen, their team is fourth in the table and we are at the bottom. I didn’t see much difference between the teams – the only one is they have a striker that scores 20 goals and our best scorer has three goals.”
Stendel, who has confirmed that long-term injury victim Peter Haring is no closer to a return, also addressed the reported interest in precocious teenager Aaron Hickey from Italian giants AC Milan – admitting the player’s future will become more clear in the summer.
“When Hickey can play to the same level that he played in the games before the new year, then it is easy for him.
“For the moment, we think he should stay here and play for us for the next five months. After this, we can see what happens.”