Hearts have revealed their delight at signing Lewis Neilson after the young defender left Dundee United – and insist they have landed the player on a free transfer.
The 19-year-old Scotland youth international has signed a three-year deal at Tynecastle just days after his existing contract with United come to an end.
Hearts director Joe Savage says the club are “overwhelmed” at landing the highly-rated player for nothing, though United are understood to be adamant they are due training compensation for someone who came through their academy set-up.
Clubs are entitled to financial compensation for players they have trained at any point up to the age of 23, providing they had offered the player a new contract to stay, and that other steps are taken.
United believe they are entitled to money for a player who joined their youth system at the age of ten and, when announcing the player’s departure, sporting director Tony Asghar said talks over a new deal began last September and a “concrete” contract offer was made in February, with a final offer being tabled as late as last week.
Hearts sporting director Joe Savage welcomed the player to the club, and said that they had pursued the deal for a while.
He said: “We were interested in Lewis as soon as we heard there was a chance he might not renew his contract at Dundee United.
“To get him on a free transfer is great business from our perspective. We’re overwhelmed by it, to be honest. At the age he is, with a chance to develop him further. Robbie and his coaching staff raved about him. He’s someone that Robbie thinks is very good and that we can make him into an even better player,
“It’s good to go down the route of attracting young Scottish players, when we can, it shows that we’re committed to our roots of developing footballers. We’ve done Alan Forrest, and now we’ve done that with Lewis. We’re delighted.”
If the clubs remain in dispute then the issue of any compensation would be determined by an independent tribunal convened by the Scottish FA.
Neilson moves to Tynecastle having made ten appearances for United and with a loan spell at Falkirk under his belt. The defender is able to play either in central defence or on the right and Hearts boss Robbie Neilson was thrilled to add him to the squad.
He told the club website: ““Lewis is someone I’ve known for a while as he was coming through the ranks at Dundee United when I was manager there.
“Even back then you could see his potential and he’s continued to improve, so I’m delighted that we’ve been able to bring him to Hearts.
“He’s a very quick and strong player with all the attributes needed to make it at the top level, and I’m sure Hearts will provide the perfect environment for Lewis to work hard, develop and take his career forward.”