When news of Kenneth Vargas’ planned move to Heart of Midlothian first arose in the summer, there was a collective sense of excitement at the prospect. A forward from Central America, someone fans knew little about, brought about a concoction of anticipation, intrigue and mystery. 

From the opening day trip to St Johnstone in the Scottish Premiership, the fans, led by the Gorgie Ultras, were already singing about their "rapid Costa Rican”, signed on a season-long loan deal from CS Herediano in his homeland.

The 21-year-old would make his debut in mid-August, in a rather forgettable 0-0 draw at home to Kilmarnock. From early on, he won over the Hearts faithful with his attitude and willingness to get stuck in. Fast forward to the present day. His sixth and most recent strike of the season, the stoppage-time goal to see off Motherwell last weekend, was masterful, with shades of Rudi Skacel. 

His importance and contributions in the final third have grown with five goals in his last nine games. As has his popularity.

READ MORE: Kenneth Vargas close to 'finalising' permanent Hearts move after loan

"It’s really clear already that I have connected with the fans," Vargas told Hearts Standard in his first interview since joining the club. "To see how they always sing to me and support me encourages me every time to do a good job on the pitch. I am very aware that they show me love, so when they do that I am always going to do my very best to make them happy."

Crossing the ocean and adapting to a new lifestyle, culture and language with your family, including a young son, back home would be tough for most people, let alone a 21-year-old. It only makes his continued development well-deserved for praise and admiration. Even with his on-field success, he could be forgiven if he was thinking about home. But he is happy.

So much so that, without any probing, he offered up his desire to see his loan deal be made into a permanent one, the club holding an option to do so.

This is a player who sees his future with Heart of Midlothian.

"The truth is I am really happy here," he said. "I want to renew [my contract] first of all, I want to feel secure being here. This is not in my hands, I have told the club that I want to stay, and I want to be able to sign the contract as soon as possible. This is not an issue for me, it’s for them.

"It will be great to give the club more joy, to be able to show my football ability, which I know I am capable of. But most of all to be here for a long time and continue to make the people happy, as they do for me."

Hearts Standard met with Vargas at Tynecastle Park earlier this week. On arrival, he was already hard at work, taking on local children at EAFC 24 as part of a sponsors' event. He interacted with every kid he faced - many of whom defeated handily, including when he was Kilmarnock, controlling Kevin van Veen to a hat-trick in a 6-1 win - and posed for numerous selfies. With both the kids and their Hearts-mad parents.

On the way down to the home dressing room he spoke about his love of the video game, and how it allows him to reconnect with his friends back home in Costa Rica while playing the Clubs game mode.  And also briefly of the stadium, stressing his love of seeing the 20,000 fans every other week and the noise that they generate, adding that it was a different world from what he is used to back home.

He also spoke of his enjoyment of doing interviews - something he has not been able to do because of the language barrier - and his chance to speak to the fans for the first time.

Vargas' English is better than perhaps he gives himself credit for. He can understand English if spoken with care. Admittedly there are one or two team-mates he can struggle with, especially those with a thicker West Coast accent. The shake of the head, quizzical look and 'are you kidding?' sigh when asked if he can follow conversations between Scottish team-mates in the dressing room said a lot. 

"At the start, it was more difficult, because I didn’t understand any English," he said. "But as time has passed I believe I’m starting to understand them a little more, I’m getting a better grasp of the teacher’s [manager] ideas because I understand him so much more.  So, I think as time has passed I am learning and improving my English. This has helped me a lot in order to communicate and be able to live here.

"In the team, I have a really good connection with everyone. They all know I don’t speak the language but regardless they are always trying to get me to hang out, walk with them, talk with everyone. No one is rude to me, they are always helping me and I have noticed this. I spend most time with Calem [Nieuwenhof] because he is the one I travel with every day, he is the one I talk with the most, the one I understand the most. But in general, I think all of them have been really good guys with me.  They have all helped me, they know I’m not great at the language but they have made me feel wanted as part of the team, and it means a lot."

He has mastered the use of "aye" instead of "yes" and is keen to add more slang words and phrases to his repertoire. 

"I have started to investigate, but nothing has quite stuck," he noted. "I hear that one every day, so I have learnt what it means, but it’s the only one I know. But yeah, I would like to learn, first English, which is the fundamental thing, then afterwards if there’s time to learn the other bits."

In addition, he wasn't afraid to poke fun at Nieuwenhof's music taste. The duo have formed a close bond and he has introduced his colleague to the world of reggaeton.

He said: "Yes! I’m the one that puts on the music in the car, because Calem plays really bad music! Always when I’m travelling with him I’m choosing the music."

READ MORE: Second-half Hearts: The contrast and Steven Naismith's in-game ability explained

On the pitch, Vargas injected pace and personality to the Hearts forward line. He took time to settle, both on and off the pitch, but his first goal, the winner against Livingston in November, was a huge moment for him and his development. 

"I think that I have many favourite moments, all of my goals are favourite moments," he said. "The first goal I scored against Livingston was the most special for me because I had played lots of games without scoring. I was having a tough time football-wise and it was like an explosion, releasing those emotions that had built up inside. So I think that has to be my favourite moment. But also, I really liked my most recent goal in the last game. But I think the goal against Livingston was my favourite here."

Vargas has continued to develop under Steven Naismith's watch, referring to the head coach as "profesor".

"I think that Naismith has played a really important role, because he speaks a lot with me," he explained. "He knows that I am young, that I don’t know the language and he always takes me aside to explain the jobs and the moves that he wants me to do.

"So it’s good to have knowledgeable people, like him, who have played football and understand that some may need more help than others, because of the language, and understands that lots of things are different from where I come from. I think that has played a really important role for me here, and I consider him as a really, really good coach."

And, unlike many players, Vargas wasn't afraid to reveal his goals target.

"Firstly, I am really happy how I am performing," he said. "It’s my first season here in Europe, it’s totally different. What’s clear is I want to score more goals. I have a target right now to get to 10 goals for the season and I think if I keep working and continue doing things the way I have been lately, I think I can reach it very very quickly.

"The truth is the football here is very different. I have noticed that it is a lot more physical while in Costa Rica it’s a bit more deliberate and slower, whereas it’s a bit faster here. The footballers are much more physical, so you have to prepare yourself better and do that little bit extra to help you succeed and win games. So I think that it is a big, big change."

With his success in front of goal, Hearts fans are becoming accustomed to seeing the Thor celebration from the Costa Rican. It is in honour of his son back home. 

"It came about last Halloween," Vargas said. "I have a very small baby and he, I’m not sure why, he really likes Thor. I was already here for Halloween, so I bought him a Thor costume and he went crazy!

"In a video call, he did the Thor signal to me. So I had that very much in mind, so the celebration that I do is for him, all the goals I score are dedicated to him. So it’s for my son because he really likes the character."

It bears repeating. Vargas is a 21-year-old father living more than 5,000 miles away from his son, family and home. He finds games, primarily EAFC 24, as a way to stay connected with back home, while perhaps forgetting about the struggles he may have as a kid living alone in a completely new country with a completely different culture.

"Yes, it’s quite difficult as well because my family is far away," he said. "I have a kid in Costa Rica who I miss the most, but I know that these are sacrifices you have to do as a football player in order to succeed. So all sacrifices that we make, if God allows it, will bring us something back in the future and I believe that I am seeing those results even if my family is far away.

"I am alone here, I am living alone. It’s also something that has helped take me away from the world of football, which can be quite difficult. It’s a way of distracting myself, 'to be able to disconnect yourself a little bit from life' like we say in Costa Rica. But I think it’s really important to have things you can do outside of football, things that can free your mind and de-stress you above all."

Still, he believes he has found a new home in EH11.

"Exactly! I speak a lot with my mum and she says to me that she misses me lots," he said. "But she says that I am very happy here and it shows by how much I have been welcomed at Hearts. Here at the club, has been something very important for me to not feel so alone and I think I have shown this, it shows every day because I feel really happy here."

READ MORE: Assessing the Hearts squad: Depth, development and transfer potential

And the good life is something Vargas wants to exude.

In a social media video earlier in the season, Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark amusingly referred to him as "a mad Costa Rican guy" with Craig Halkett agreeing because he's "got a tattoo on his neck".

'Pura Vida' is one of 15 tattoos Vargas counted after the interview. His latest '2002' on his knuckles. But it is the ink on his neck which is one of his most meaningful.

"Well first of all I feel it is something that represents every Costa Rican," he explained. "If you go to Costa Rica what you are going to hear from the people is 'Pura Vida, Pura Vida, Pura Vida'. So before I came here, I got the tattoo, I wanted people to know where I came from. And I wanted to treat myself to the most significant phrase of the country.

"So what it means in English is “good life”, I think. Above all, it is a phrase that is used daily in Costa Rica and I think it is what most represents us 'ticos' [Costa Ricans]."

And while we are undertaking a Spanish lesson. What of 'Huevito'? The forward's moniker.

"This is because my dad also played football in Costa Rica, and they called him Huevo [egg]," Vargas said. "And when I started to play my dad [Kenneth Vargas Sr] was quite well-known in the country. So not to call me the same name they invented it as a diminutive, so they call me Huevito [Little egg]. Since I started playing from the age of 10 or 11 they started to call me that, but I don’t have any problem with it."

It was clear from the moment he sat down for the interview, and began talking about Hearts, that he viewed the move as a massive opportunity, one that could help propel his career.

"Well, first of all, I am very grateful," he said. "Firstly for the opportunity that they are giving me here.  I believe that I am adapting quite well, even though I do not speak the language 100 per cent. The accents are difficult and it’s also quite cold. I think I’m now adapting to the city, the club, my team-mates - and I think that has been reflected on the pitch."

He has made big sacrifices and is going to make sure he gives it all to ensure he takes the opportunity presented to him. Both he and the support hope that will continue at Heart of Midlothian for years to come.