HEARTS have moved to secure the signing of former St Mirren favourite Mihai Popescu in a bid to ease their defensive woes.
The 27-year-old is currently on the books of Romanian giants Dinamo Bucharest but has been bluntly informed that he is not in the plans of new manager Cosmin Contra.
Popescu has not featured in the match-day squad for any of Dinamo’s three league fixtures this season and is reportedly training with the reserves as he searches for a new club.
And the Jambos have offered the 6ft 2ins centre-half an escape route to Tynecastle, tabling terms to tempt him back to Scotland. Popescu is understood to be keen on the switch and the onus is now on Hearts to strike a deal with Dinamo and, with just one year left on his deal, all parties are confident an agreement can be found.
Popescu shone during a six-month loan spell with St Mirren in 2018/19, becoming a cult hero with supporters in Paisley.
He made 21 appearances for Oran Kearney’s side and helped the Buddies secure their Premiership survival, ironically defeating Dundee United – then managed by current Hearts boss Robbie Neilson – in a nail-biting penalty shootout in the playoff final.
St Mirren were keen to extend his loan for another campaign but were priced out of a deal, publicly citing ‘unrealistic demands from Mihai’s representatives’.
Popescu’s arrival would be a welcome boost for Neilson after seeing his defensive options severely diminished by injuries ahead of their return to competitive action next month.
Scotland international John Souttar will not play again until well into 2021 after suffering a third devastating achilles tendon set-back, while Christophe Berra’s progress has been hampered in pre-season by a calf strain.
That has left Hearts with just Craig Halkett and youngster Chris Hamilton as specialised centre-backs in recent friendlies, albeit Peter Haring and Michael Smith can both fill in there.
The Jambos ran the rule over powerful French defender Yann Songo’o – currently a free agent – earlier this month but opted not to offer him a contract.