Scottish Premiership club Heart of Midlothian have announced the signing of Everton midfielder Beni Baningime on a three-year deal.
He joins the Jambos ahead of their opening league fixture against Celtic on Saturday.
Baningime sought a new challenge outside Goodison Park after finding it difficult to secure regular playing time since he made his professional debut at the club in October 2017.
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He spent the second half of last season on loan in the EFL Championship with Derby County, where he made two league appearances.
Prior to the loan move, the DR Congo-born midfielder did not play for Everton in the Premier League across three seasons (2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21).
The 22-year-old only played 12 games in total for Everton’s first-team, which include eight appearances in his debut Premier League campaign in the 2017-18 campaign.
Hearts’ sporting director Joe Savage believes Baningime’s addition will boost Robbie Neilson’s team as they aim to maintain their top-flight status this season.
“Both sides were really keen to get the deal done which is always a positive,” Savage told the club’s website.
“Beni has had a great schooling at Everton. He’s won the Premier League 2 twice with David Unsworth’s team and I know there is a really high standard down there, but he’s now ready to play first team football and we can give him that platform.
“We’ve stressed that we want to sign quality over quantity and in Beni I think we’ve got ourselves a quality player with the potential to do really well for Hearts.”
Hearts were promoted to the Premiership last season after they won the second division title.
Baningime joined Everton at the age of nine and he rose through the club's youth ranks before making his professional debut in a League Cup match against Chelsea in 2017.
He is in line to make his Hearts debut against Celtic on Saturday but Neilson is undecided on whether to put him on the bench or in his starting XI.
“We still have a few things to iron out but he brings energy to the midfield, he is obviously of good stock, he has played six Premier League games and 12 games as a whole for a top team,” Neilson said per Edinburgh News.
“He brings energy, work ethic, moves the ball quickly. It’s an area we wanted to try and build on this season and hopefully he can do that for us.
“He has trained with us and he has played some games down there, was involved with the first-team training before they went to Florida, so he is in a good place fitness-wise.
“We will assess him ahead of the weekend. He will definitely be in the squad, it’s just whether he starts or not.”