CRAIG LEVEIN admits he is "worried" by Peter Haring’s lack of progress towards full fitness – and could be forced to dip into the transfer market as a consequence.

Haring, 26, is yet to feature for the Tynecastle club in pre-season as he continues his rehabilitation from a troublesome groin complaint.

The towering Austrian remained in Edinburgh to focus on his recovery last week while the rest of the squad were put through their paces at an Irish training camp.

Hearts manager Levein confesses that he took "a risk" by playing Haring in May’s Scottish Cup final defeat against Celtic, where he managed 81 minutes before limping off.

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The former SV Ried midfielder had been struggling to make the Hampden showpiece – and also endured a two-month lay-off following a double hernia operation in January.

Nevertheless, Levein initially hoped that Haring would be ready for their Betfred Cup opener against Dundee United on Friday – but his issues have proved more difficult to remedy than first thought.

Levein said: "Peter is progressing, but slowly. I knew I was taking a bit of a risk by playing him in the Scottish Cup final but I thought it would settle down over the summer; however, he still feels something and we are taking a wee backwards step before we push on again.

"It's quite difficult to diagnose these things. There are so many parts in that area [of the body] that are reliant others and, if something is wrong in one, it can cause compensation and strain elsewhere.

"I was hoping he'd be fit by now but he's not. That's a wee bit of a worry because we don't have anyone else like him."

Levein concedes that Arnaud Djoum, who has reportedly agreed a lucrative switch to Saudi Arabia after his Tynecastle deal expired last month, would have been the most natural like-for-like replacement for Haring in midfield.

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Olly Lee has also been told he is free to find a new club.

Harry Cochrane and Andy Irving have both been utilised in the deep-lying midfield role during friendlies against Shelbourne and Glenavon, while Oliver Bozanic and Ryan Edwards are other viable options.

But Levein accepts that no one brings the same mix of physicality and poise afforded by Haring, leaving him considering reinforcements.

Levein added: "Arnaud [Djoum], who is no longer on the books, would be the next player closest to Peter.

"That's something I might have to look at, with regard to bringing another one in for that position, which is such an important position."