Michael Smith has targeted a European spot for Hearts after signing a one-year contract extension which keeps him at Tynecastle until the summer of 2023.
The 33-year-old Northern Ireland defender, who joined the Gorgie club from Peterborough United in 2017, has become the fourth player to commit his future to the Tynecastle club following new deals for Craig Gordon, Craig Halkett and Stephen Kingsley.
As the cinch Premiership gets set to resume after the winter break, Robbie Neilson’s side are in third place, nine points behind Celtic and 15 behind leaders Rangers.
Smith believes the Edinburgh club are “building something special” and he told HeartsTV that European football next season is on his agenda.
He said: “We are building something special here and I want to be part of it and see where we go.
“We spoke in the summer before the season started and we were just newly-promoted but we are a massive club and we should be in Europe and that is still the goal.
“So hopefully we can stay in third place or even kick on and push for the top two.
“I would love to get the club into Europe and challenge for top three every year, back to where the club should be.
“We have had a few up and down years and it would be great to get some stability back and under the gaffer and Joe (Savage, sporting director) and the coaches we are starting to build that and hopefully I can be a part of it.
“It is definitely the best squad I have been involved in. We have brought in good quality and not just numbers.
“Since I came up I have probably played my best football, it has got me into the international squad. I have really enjoyed my time here and I am settled with my family. So it was easy to say yes (to new contract).
“It was done really quickly and we are delighted to get it over the line.”
Speaking to the official Hearts website, Neilson also spoke of the goal of European football.
He said: “I’m really pleased that we’ve got Michael tied down for another season.
“He’s a top player, an international-standard defender and his versatility makes him a tremendous asset for us.
“I know he’ll help drive us on to our goal of challenging at the top end of the league and for European football.”
Savage said: “Michael’s one of the longest-serving players in the squad for a reason; he’s a really talented and versatile player and a model professional.
“Those are the types of guys you want in your team and it made absolute sense for all parties to extend his contract by another year.
“The fans have really taken to him over the past five years and for any young player coming through our youth system, Michael is someone they should look up to.”
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