'I think there was another role for him' - Stevenson laments departure of fellow ex-Town star Berra
- Credit: Archant
Former Ipswich Town stalwart Christophe Berra is to leave Hearts at the end of the season, it has emerged.
Berra, now 36, left Town in May 2017, having played 200 games for Town, bringing leadership, grit and fight, and being a key part of the side which Mick McCarthy led to the play-offs in 2014/15.
After leaving Suffolk, he returned to Hearts, the side where he started his career in 2003.
He's played more than 100 games in his second stint there but will depart after this campaign, with Hearts on the brink of claiming the Scottish Championship title.
Manager Robbie Neilson said: "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."
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But Ryan Stevenson, another former Town player, who now plays for Albion Rovers, said he felt Berra could have been kept on with the club.
"Leaving Hearts will be a big thing for Christophe Berra," he told Edinburgh Live. "Whether he could have been used in another avenue or to help bring some of the younger kids on, I think there was another role there for him.
“I don't know what he’s thinking about how long he wants to play for, although it’s sad to see him go.
“He’s been an amazing servant for the club, an amazing player and an amazing captain.
When I got called up for Scotland I actually shared a room with him and he’s a gem of a boy. I’ve kept in contact with him over the years.
“He was pretty boring as a roommate! But no, he’s a top man and a top professional. He lived and breathed football every minute of the day, which I didn’t at that time.
"Some people are different than others and he did everything he could to be in the best possible shape, eating right and giving himself the best opportunity to do well.
“More than anything, he was a captain and someone that’s come through all the levels to play for and captain Hearts. He’s truly been a great servant to the club.
“Some people always remember the 21, 21-year-old Christophe that was lightning quick. Age does catch up on you - he’ll know that and I know that, but when he does leave you step back and look at what he has achieved for Hearts and how many games he’s played.
“I know he’s very highly thought of amongst the players, past and present. In this day and age, it’s very difficult to find people with loyalty. He is a Hearts fan, he’s loyal to the club so you take all that into consideration.”