BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
ARNAUD Djoum is thrilled to be following in the footsteps of idol Zinedine Zidane after being handed the coveted number 10 jersey for the season ahead.
And, after penning a new two-year extension to his Tynecastle deal, the midfielder is convinced Hearts will not be left as also-rans in the Premiership title race.
The Belgian, who was out of contract next summer, is now tied to the Gorgie outfit until 2019 and is delighted to add some rare stability to a career that has seen him endure short spells in Turkey and Poland in recent times.
But, not only is he content with life at Hearts, he is excited at being handed the responsibility of a shirt number made famous by the world’s greatest players through the ages, including hero Zidane, who wore the number with France.
He said: “I’m wearing number 10 this year and that gives me a lot of responsibility in the team.
“But that is good. When you play football you like to feel like this in the team, to get a lot of confidence and responsibility.
“Zinedine Zidane was my idol, always, so to wear this number gives me a lot of confidence.
“He wasn’t bad! So I am really happy to wear this number for such a good club. It’s the first time I have worn number 10, so it gives me a lot of responsibility.
“I will try to play well and make the difference for the team.”
The season kicks off with a mouthwatering encounter with Celtic on Sunday and Djoum is convinced Hearts can not only seriously test the champions in a one-off game but also build a lasting challenge at the top of the Premiership.
The Tynecastle men threatened to put up a fight for the title last term but dropped off the pace at the crucial moment late in the campaign and finished third.
However, Djoum firmly believes the Gorgie outfit are heading in the right direction and should have the title in their sights.
He added: “The club has a good future because everybody is going forward and getting better and better – in every aspect.
“I want to be part of it. I think the club can have a good future and I want to be with the club.
“Last season we finished third and I think the club is now in the position to go higher and higher.
“Next year, we will try to challenge the top two, maybe challenge for the title.
“I think that’s an achievable objective for the club in the next year.
“It will be really difficult. We just have to do it step by step. It will take time but I think the club has a good base to achieve this.
“Now we have to confirm that (last season) was not a one-off, that we were lucky or anything like that. We have to show we are a good team and we can compete for a top three place in this league.
“I think we can do that.”