Alim Ozturk: Hearts halt contract negotiations with defender

Alim Ozturk
Ozturk was a regular in defence for Hearts over the past two seasons

Hearts have put contract talks with Alim Ozturk on hold, with head coach Robbie Neilson saying the defender needs to regain his starting place.

The 23-year-old Turk has made just one start this season and has lost the captaincy to Perry Kitchen.

"If players are here they have to play football," Neilson told BBC Scotland. "He is at an age where he has to play.

"If he gets back in the team then we continue negotiations and keep talking but he has to get in the team."

John Souttar and Igor Rossi have been Neilson's preferred centre-back pairing this term, with Ozturk's current deal due to expire next summer.

Neilson admitted it was hard breaking the change of captaincy news to Ozturk.

"You have to make decisions in football," he added. "You are not going to keep everyone happy all the time.

"I had a good conversation with Alim. He was disappointed but he understood and accepted the decision. He has just got to focus on his game and try and get himself back in the team.

"Perry has come in and proven to be a real leader of the group. I thought he had established that leadership in there."

Callum Paterson
Paterson is expected to move on next season

Full-back Callum Paterson will also be out of contract at the end of this campaign and Neilson is relaxed about losing the Scotland international.

The Edinburgh club rejected an approach for the 21-year-old from Wigan in August.

"Callum is at the stage now where he is probably ready to move on," said Neilson.

"We knocked back a bid in the summer that was nowhere near what we were looking to get for him. We will get good compensation, so it's now time for Callum to concentrate on his football and his form and we may get another 30 or 40 games out of him."

Neilson thinks the lack of finance in the game in Scotland dictates that clubs do have to sell their assets when the time and the money is right.

He said: "All Hearts players are up for sale. That's the way football is in Scotland, whether it's Rangers, Celtic, Aberdeen or Hearts.

"If a team comes in and pays the figure we are looking for then the player will move on. But it has to be the right figure that we are happy with."

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