HEARTS expect to officially secure the signing of St Johnstone striker Steven MacLean within the next 24 hours, with Craig Levein seeing the veteran marksman as the perfect mentor for the next generation of Tynecastle teens.

The Saints were desperate to extend the 35-year-old’s deal, however they have been unable to compete with the offer tabled by Hearts, which includes the potential opportunity to pursue his coaching aspirations at Tynecastle.

Talks are now at an extremely advanced stage and Hearts chiefs were last night hopeful of completing the paperwork by the end of the week.

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MacLean is likely to be utilised as a squad rotation player in the capital, however it is understood boss Levein also expects him to be a pivotal nurturing influence on Hearts’ young strikers, including 19-year-old Aidan Keena who will be promoted to the senior squad next season after impressing on loan at Queen’s Park.

That role echoes the likes of Aaron Hughes, Christophe Berra, Don Cowie and Steven Naismith this term, with Levein placing increasing focus on senior players acting as guiding lights to the club’s most promising youngsters.

MacLean’s signature will herald the first piece of business in what promises to be a hectic period, with owner Ann Budge recently confirming that she will green light the signings of at least nine new players.

Scotland No.1 Allan McGregor is a high priority for the club and sources suggest they are confident of completing the capture of the former Rangers goalkeeper when his contract with Hull City expires this summer.

They have also been linked with Queen of the South winger Lyndon Dykes and Cambridge United forward Uche Ikpeazu.

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Levein has already stated that he is keen to tie up several pre-contracts ahead of next season as Hearts seek to get much of their work in the transfer market done by the start of pre-season, revealing last month: “We have made offers for three different players already.

"I'm hoping to get four or five done fairly early and then have time to see how that looks and then we will bring in two or three others in come mid-July, start of August.”

MacLean is assured legendary status at St Johnstone despite his decision to quit McDiarmid Park.

He has scored 54 goals in close to 200 appearances since joining the club from Yeovil in the summer of 2012.

The pinncale of his career in Perth came on May 17, 2014 when he scored the second goal in the Saints’ 2-0 win over Dundee United in the Scottish Cup final, helping the club claim the first piece of major silverware in their history.

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The classy forward, who started his career as a youngster with Rangers, making four appearances, has also turned out for the likes of Scunthorpe, Sheffield Wednesday, Plymouth and Aberdeen during a varied career north and south of the border.

Speaking ahead of St Johnstone’s 0-0 draw against Motherwell at the weekend, MacLean was adamant he is fitter than ever as he reaches the autumn of his career.

He said: “My plan is to keep playing next season. I still feel great and I’m fitter now than I used to be. As you get older you look after yourself better. I am ten kilos lighter now than I was when I was at Aberdeen [in 2010]. I still have photos of me playing back then and you can see how much heavier I was.”