Hearts: Ian Cathro 'speculation' played down by Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez

Newcastle United coach Ian Cathro
Cathro coached in Portugal and Spain before moving to St James' Park

Manager Rafael Benitez says Newcastle United have not received an approach from Hearts for coach Ian Cathro.

The 30-year-old has been heavily linked with Hearts as the Tynecastle club's current head coach Robbie Neilson nears a move to MK Dons.

Cathro previously worked with Dundee United and Valencia and is now part of Benitez's backroom team at St James' Park.

"Ian is a great coach," said Benitez of the Scot.

"We don't have any official approach. We are happy with him and we will continue with that. He is a young coach, he has some experience and has a great future.

"The media is telling me Hearts will come, but it depends on the head coach they have at the moment if he goes or not. That is football. It is just speculation."

Neilson left Hearts' training ground on Thursday afternoon having met with the players and used an unusual tactic to evade the waiting media pack.

One of the backroom staff left the training ground wearing a Robbie Nielson mask before picking up the man himself around a corner.

Working under director of football Craig Levein, Neilson led the Tynecastle side to the Scottish Championship title and promotion in 2015. Their first season back in the top-flight ended with a third-placed finish and a place in the Europa League qualifiers.

And victory over Rangers on Wednesday took Hearts second in the Premiership.

Cathro, who never played at professional level, began working at Dundee United during Levein's reign at Tannadice.

He became the assistant manager of Portuguese club Rio Ave in 2012 and followed manager Nuno Espirito Santo to Valencia in 2014, helping to secure a fourth place La Liga finish in his one season in Spain.

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