Hearts in talks with Kilmarnock's Mehdi Taouil

By John BarnesBBC Scotland
Kilmarnock midfielder Mehdi Taouil
Taouil has been at Rugby Park since October 2007

Kilmarnock manager Mixu Paatelainen has confirmed that Hearts are trying to sign Mehdi Taouil in the summer.

The Moroccan is a free agent at the end of the season, when he is able to move on without a transfer fee.

"Hearts have been been polite enough to inform us they're having talks with him," Kilmarnock boss Mixu Paatelainen told BBC Scotland.

"Their budget is many times bigger than ours so it's very likely they have much more resources available to lure him."

The Killie boss will try to use his powers of persuasion to keep the 27-year-old at Rugby Park despite the interest of Taouil's former manager Jim Jefferies, and the finances he has at his disposal.

"When I spoke to Mehdi he said this is his most enjoyable season so far in Scotland. He's loved every minute of it," said Paatelainen.

"He enjoys the way we play and his role in the team, so these are very good reasons to stay at the club.

"It is very, very important for me that the players enjoy training and the way we play in matches and I'm so glad to hear positive comments like that from Mehdi."

Taouil, a former Nancy player, has made 114 appearances since joining Killie in October 2007, but he is likely to have to wait to add to that tally as he could be sidelined for the next three weeks with a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, Paatelainen feels Alexei Eremenko has been harshly dealt with after his appeal against the red card he received in Saturday's 2-0 win over Hearts was rejected.

The Finnish midfielder was sent off following an altercation with Hearts defender Marius Zaliukas.

The upheld red card means Eremenko is suspended for Killie's visit to Ibrox to play Rangers on Sunday.

"I'm very disappointed," said Paatelainen.

"I thought that his red card would have been reduced to a yellow because he was clearly not the offender there.

"The referee said after the game to assistant manager Kenny Shiels that he sent Eremenko off because he pushed Zaliukas with both hands.

"One of their players and one of our players got a yellow card for that offence during the game as well so there was no logic in that."

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