Raith Rovers agree deal to sign Hearts captain Christophe Berra
Raith Rovers have agreed a deal to bring Heart of Midlothian captain Christophe Berra to Fife in the summer.
A pre-contract agreement is now in place for the former Scotland international, capped 41 times between 2008 and 2017, to join the Kirkcaldy side on a two-year deal beginning ahead of next season.
Raith management team John McGlynn and Paul Smith say they moved quickly to secure the 36-year-old’s services following his recent announcement that his second spell at his home-town club’s Tynecastle Park ground in Edinburgh is to come to an end following the conclusion of the current Championship season.
The veteran centre-back’s experience is seen as being helpful for the development of young defenders such as David McKay and Tom Lang as Rovers look to build on the progress made at Stark’s Park over the last two seasons and bid to join Hearts in moving up to the Premiership.
It was at Hearts that Berra first made his way up through the ranks to senior football, breaking into their first team in 2003, making 146 appearances and scoring five goals.
He also became the youngest captain in the Scottish top flight after taking over from Craig Gordon at the age of 22 in 2007.
Berra headed south in 2009 after being signed for £2.3 million by then English Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Promotion to the English Premier League was secured in Christophe’s first season in the West Midlands, with a three-year stay in the top flight following, pitting Edinburgh-born Berra against the likes of Sergio Aguero, Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba and Wayne Rooney.
Wolves went back down to the Championship in 2012 and Berra spent one further season with them, making 154 appearances altogether, before moving on to Suffolk’s Ipswich Town for another four seasons in the Championship, playing 186 games and scoring 14 goals for the Tractor Men.
Berra was first selected for Scotland in 2008, scoring four goals in 41 appearances over the next nine years for national team managers George Burley, Craig Levein and Gordon Strachan.
He returned to Hearts in 2017, playing 117 further games and scoring another seven goals, as well as being sent out on loan to Dundee by Daniel Stendl only to be hastily recalled in June last year by his successor, Robbie Neilson.
His career to date has seen him play just short of 600 first-team matches in total.
McGlynn said: “I’m delighted to sign Christophe, and I’m looking forward to working with him next season.”
Neilson added: “I’ve been fortunate enough to play alongside Christophe as well as manage him and he has been a great servant to this club.
“You don’t play more than 250 first-team games without being a top player and there will be an opportunity for him to add to that number before this season is out.
“He’ll remain focused and continue to give his all as we look to get the Championship title clinched, then we can look back and appreciate all that he has done for this club.”
Berra picked up both the 2017-18 players’ player and fans’ player of the year awards on his return to Hearts and was also named in the Professional Footballers’ Association’s Premiership team of the year.