Hearts aglow after talent transfusion

Heart of Midlothian FC laid down the gauntlet to their Scottish Premier League rivals as they signed eleven new players in the January transfer window.

Transfer frenzy
The Edinburgh club were by far the busiest side in Scotland during the window, with seven of the new arrivals at Tynecastle joining on a frenetic deadline day. Hearts paid a club-record €1.25m to bring Bosnia-Herzegovina winger Miršad Beslija from KRC Genk, with another €750,000 spent acquiring the services of HJK Helsinki's Finnish international striker Juho Makela, also on a three-and-a-half year contract.

Kaunas loans
Portuguese pair José Gonçalves and Bruno Aguiar landed in the Scottish capital on loan - but for similar timescales - from FBK Kaunas, the Lithuanian team owned by Hearts majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov, with €1m being paid to Swiss outfit FC Thun to secure Gonçalves.

Late arrivals
Then, late last night, Hearts completed the signing of three more players. The 19-year-old goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi arrived from Olympique de Marseille as cover for Craig Gordon, while Slovakia defender Martin Petráš and one-time Czech Republic striker Luděk Stracený came in on loan from Kaunas.

Big spenders
The seven last-day additions, alongside the earlier captures of Lee Johnson, Chris Hackett, Neil McCann and Nerijus Barasa, have taken Romanov's spending to around €3m - leaving Glasgow giants Celtic FC and Rangers FC in the shade for once. According to Hearts head coach Graham Rix, he now has a squad capable of edging out leaders Celtic in the championship race.

'Statement of intent'
"The signing of these players is a huge statement of intent and shows Hearts mean business," said Rix, whose side are second in the Premier League, eight points behind Celtic. "I have never said Hearts had given up on winning the championship but we have to focus on what we are trying to do. If Celtic slip up we will be ready."

Thun experience
Portugal Under-21 defender Gonçalves, who was part of Thun's success in qualifying for this season's UEFA Champions League group stage, hopes to be back in Europe's élite tournament next term with Hearts.

Europe again
"I chose Hearts because they have great ambition and I like that mentality," he said. "They want to win the SPL and qualify for the UEFA Champions League. I played in all six of our matches in the UEFA Champions League this season and I hope to repeat the experience with Hearts."