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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Stuart Bathgate auth-> Eddie Smith
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Berra joins Wolves for £2.3million and targets playing in top flight

stuart bathgate
CHRISTOPHE Berra completed his £2.3 million move from Hearts to Wolverhampton Wanderers yesterday, but Laryea Kingston and Andrew Driver remain on the books at Tynecastle.
All three players had been the subject of varying degrees of interest, and Hearts had been keen to get Kingston off the wage bill. On Saturday, however, once it was clear the Berra deal was going through, club owner Vladimir Romanov said there was no plan to sell anyone else before the window closed. Yesterday he was proven true to his word.

As well as holding on to Kingston and Driver, Hearts at last completed the signing of goalkeeper Janos Balogh, who has been on loan from Hungarian club Debrecen since the start of the season. They were unable, however, to reach an agreement with Inverness Caley Thistle over the early release of Ian Black. The midfielder has signed a pre-contract to join Hearts in the summer, but the Edinburgh club's manager, Csaba Laszlo, had hoped to persuade Caley Thistle to allow him to leave this month.

Laszlo also ran out of time in his bid to sign central defender Pavol Farkas from Artmedia Bratislava as a replacement for Berra. The versatile Eggert Jonsson, who stood in for Berra in Saturday's defeat by Hamilton Accies, is therefore set to continue in central defence alongside Marius Zaliukas.

It remains to be seen how badly Hearts' hopes of a successful season are affected by the loss of Berra, but the initial impression is that the club have emerged from the window in reasonable shape. The failure to pay employees on time, which occurred on two separate occasions late last year, raised fears that Hearts would be forced into a fire sale in order to improve their liquidity. That did not happen, and the money received for Berra is expected to ease the club's financial woes.

"The sale of Berra was required," Romanov said at the weekend. "But we are not planning to sell any others before the transfer window closes. I expect that more players will move on during the summer and that will allow young players to come in and grow and the club can move forward."

Berra, who has signed a four-and-a-half-year deal with Wolves, hopes that he will playing in the Premiership for the Molineux club next season. "I have never hidden my ambition to play at the highest level possible," he told the Hearts website after completing his move to the English Midlands. "Wolves are a big club and are in a good position to get into the Premiership, which is one of the strongest leagues in the world.

"It is an exciting challenge for me and one I'm really looking forward to. I am still young and ambitious and want to keep improving.

"It was an honour and a privilege to captain Hearts and I will be leaving a lot of friends behind. I'd like to wish the club, players, coaching staff and the supporters nothing but the best. The fans have given the team great backing over the past few seasons and hopefully they will have plenty to cheer about during the rest of the season. It would be great for them to get a good cup run and make Europe." Mick McCarthy, the Wolves manager, had been tracking Berra for over a year and was pleased to have got his man at last. "He'll be a really good addition," McCarthy said. "He's 6ft 3ins, left-footed with a bit of pace, and a good defender who reads the ball well and is good in the air.

"He was captain of Hearts and is an ambitious lad who's in the Scotland squad and will be driven in wanting to get to the Premier League. He'll fit in with the rest of the squad in wanting to push his career forward.

"He got a glowing recommendation from Billy McNeill, who's been my manager twice and is a great pal of mine. They don't get much better recommendations than from a great centre-half like that – although he did sign me once."

Apart from Berra, the only players who left Hearts during the window were those deemed surplus to requirements. Juho Makela, the Finnish striker, was released yesterday, just over three years after signing from HJK Helsinki. Several young players were also released, including Matej Rapnik and Dumitru Copil.

Rapnik has returned to NK Bravo, the Slovenian club he left to join Hearts 18 months ago. Copil, a Romanian, made a similar move yesterday, going back to Atletico Arad. Neither player made an appearance for the Hearts first team.

One teenage player moving in the opposite direction is Marius Zukovas.

The 17-year-old defender has joined on loan from Kaunas and will be with the under-19 squad.

Taken from the Scotsman

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