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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Mike Aitken auth-> Eddie Smith
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22 of 039 ----- L SPL A

Romanov happy to sell £2.3m Berra, but insists club under no pressure

Mike Aitken
ONCE Christophe Berra's £2.3 million transfer from Hearts to Wolves is finalised this morning, Vladimir Romanov, the owner of the Edinburgh club, has claimed there will be no financial pressure on him to sell anyone else before this evening's transfer deadline.
Making a rare visit to Scotland for talks with his manager, Csaba Laszlo, Romanov admitted Hearts have financial problems but insisted these could be solved.

The Lithuanian also pledged his own commitment to the club – "There's no doubt about this question" – and said the way forward for Hearts was to bring young Scots through the academy at Riccarton rather than spending on foreign imports.

"The whole world is facing financial problems," insisted the majority shareholder when asked if Hearts were in trouble. "As everywhere, the club has a few issues but none we can't overcome."

That said, Romanov was obviously pleased to negotiate a sizeable fee for Berra, claiming the incentive for the sale came from the player.

Romanov told the club's website: "It's difficult to lose your captain, he was an important part of the squad, but it was his choice. He wants to go and was determined to move.

"It's much better to lose a man (for a big fee] than for no money, as we did for example with (Steven] Pressley. He did very well for us and deserves to be treated well. In this situation, what was important was the decision and the determination of the player."

According to Jez Moxey, the chief executive of Wolves: "We have agreed a deal with Hearts for an undisclosed fee, and, on condition of Christophe passing a medical, he will be signing for us.

"Should the medical be satisfactory, contract talks will proceed with a view to him signing for us and a formal announcement made on Monday morning."

Coventry have also made a £1m bid for winger Andrew Driver, some way short of the club's £2m valuation on the improving young Englishman. According to Romanov, Hearts don't need to sell prematurely at a discount.

"We don't have any targets to sell someone necessarily," he said. "We're not in a hurry to sell. Ideally, we would like to move on some players and allow younger players to come in to create a growing team going forward."

With no fewer than a dozen players out of contract at the end of the season, sweeping changes in the Hearts squad can be expected in the summer.

Romanov added: "Well, if we talk about the composition of the team, we'd like to see as many players as possible coming through the academy and as few foreign players as possible coming to the team. That would be the ideal scenario.

"Hearts is now a club producing young, skilled, talented players. Some three years ago we had a lot of people coming from other clubs and countries. Now we're determined to bring players through the academy."

Romanov spoke warmly of his manager – "It's a very good relationship, he's understanding and committed, a pleasure to work with" – and both men were singing from the same hymn sheet when discussing the future.

Laszlo himself spoke about restoring the Scottish identity of the club and ensuring up to 70 per cent of the team is home grown. "The skeleton of the team must be Scottish or British," he said.

In the short term, though, Laszlo has looked abroad to recruit a possible replacement for Berra in central defence and a forward who can solve the lack of a regular goalscorer.

"I think now you can see what importance Christophe had in this team," Laszlo said after lamenting what he described as a confused performance in the 2-0 defeat at Hamilton.

"I personally am happy for Berra to move maybe to a better league and team and I hope he makes his way and I wish him all the best if the contract is finalised. Now we must look to find a way back, which we have done before."

Laszlo indicated he had lined up a left-sided defender to replace Berra and had put his case to the Hearts board for making the bargain acquisition.

"You cannot compare the price to Berra," he said. "If the board don't accept it, I will respect their decision. Then we must find an internal solution."

He also acknowledged his interest in signing a German-born striker who is currently playing in Spain.

Whether or not Romanov will make even a small percentage of Berra's fee available to Laszlo for new faces will become clearer today.

Evidently at ease with his manager as well as Campbell Ogilvie, the club's managing director, Romanov could not resist taking a dig at past acquaintances when he was asked to explain why he visited Edinburgh so rarely these days.

"Well if we had the chairman (Lord George] Foulkes and the chief executive Mr (Phil] Anderton as we had before, then I'd be here every day probably…"

Taken from the Scotsman

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