Ranking the 20 January transfer window signings Hearts have made over the past five years

Counting down the Hearts signings from worst to best in the January transfer window over the past five years.
Esmael Goncalves (centre) with new team-mates Alexandros Tziolis (left) and Tasos Avlonitis after signing on the same day in January 2017. Picture: SNSEsmael Goncalves (centre) with new team-mates Alexandros Tziolis (left) and Tasos Avlonitis after signing on the same day in January 2017. Picture: SNS
Esmael Goncalves (centre) with new team-mates Alexandros Tziolis (left) and Tasos Avlonitis after signing on the same day in January 2017. Picture: SNS

20) Malaury Martin

There are definitely worse footballers on this list but it’s the length of contract that makes this the worst overall signing. A three-and-a-half-year deal and likely one of the highest earners at the club, his abilities on the ball couldn’t make up for his lackadaisical approach. Played for six months; stayed for nearly three years.

19) Marcel Langer

‘Worse than David Vanecek!?’ you all exclaim. Yes, he was. Because while Vanecek was a public embarrassment given how much manager Craig Levein and the player himself hyped up the signing, at least he had a decent pedigree. Langer was a jobber from the German fourth tier. It was clear to anyone who watched him for five minutes that he didn’t have the talent for the Scottish top flight. A strange signing.

18) David Vanecek

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Promised goals and lots of them. Turned up overweight after a month-long jolly in Thailand. Signed to lead the attack but could barely move. A PR disaster.

17) Danny Amankwaa

With past Champions League experience this looked like a potential coup. Unfortunately, prior injury troubles and a lack of application in training, as Levein once stated, meant this “speedster” rarely ran past an opponent, if ever.

16) Donis Avdijaj

Arrived with a decent pedigree but spent his short time at Tynecastle overhitting crosses, ballooning shots over the bar and generally being not very good at a time when Hearts really needed someone to be good.

15) Lennard Sowah

“Really?!” was the reaction of Hamilton supporters, his former club, when the German left-back was signed. Never a good indication. Looked decent in a couple of early games but it soon became apparent he couldn’t defend. Ian Cathro, in his infinite wisdom, then decided to try him at centre-back. Dear lord.

14) Choulay

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Will end up being one of those infuriatingly obscure answers in trivia quizzes around the Gorgie pubs for years to come. Mostly played as a substitute and looked extremely lightweight, even for a winger.

13) Tasos Avlonitis

The Greek centre-back was solid enough in his first few games, but was badly exposed once the team’s form dropped off a cliff.

12) Toby Sibbick

It really says a lot about this list that somebody who played only twice ranks so high. Signed to add mobility and strength in the midfield area, he could have been key in Hearts escaping relegation/demotion last term. Instead, glandular fever put him out of action for weeks. Typical for Hearts, he returned to full training two days before the season was curtailed.

11) Andraz Struna

Was part of a dreadful team and therefore didn’t look too great himself, but the Slovenian international did have something about him and likely would’ve been a solid first-team player in a competent squad.

10) Conor Shaughnessy

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Brought in from Leeds on loan to replace the universally popular Jimmy Dunne. He wasn’t as good as Dunne. Not even close. He wasn’t a complete bombscare though, so, yeah, tenth place.

9) Alexandros Tziolis

A Rolls Royce of a footballer. He 75 caps for Greece and it showed. Composure personified, he could run the midfield by himself… when he could be bothered. It soon became apparent he’d agreed to sign just to keep his fitness ticking over before getting another big-money move.

8) Abiola Dauda

Another with a strong pedigree who didn’t live up to expectations, but at least he wasn’t useless. Dauda was brought in on loan to replace the departing Osman Sow. He was OK. Scored an excellent goal against Celtic and a winner at Pittodrie.

7) Aaron Hughes

One of the best in Cathro’s free-falling team (not that it’s saying much) and was generally OK the following season. The decision to sign him up for another year was a mistake, however, as it was clear his legs had gone. Rarely seen after the 5-0 Livingston debacle.

6) Esmael Goncalves

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Hugely talented but incredibly frustrating. Could score out of nothing or miss from three yards. Always willing to get on the ball and try things but seemed oblivious to having team-mates. Scored 15 goals in 42 games and made a profit on his sale a year after joining a club. That’s good enough for sixth in this list.

5) Demetri Mitchell

This is Mitchell of his initial loan spell, not his hugely underwhelming return the following summer. Fast, exciting to watch, not a bad defender and scored a belting goal in the Scottish Cup win over St Johnstone.

4) Don Cowie

Clearly past his best but could still be counted on to put in a shift and professionally filled in various roles around midfield and attack during his two-and-a-half years.

3) Liam Boyce

Has the ability and the time to eventually become No.1 on this list, especially if one day he becomes the first Hearts striker to hit 20 goals in a single season. Has had his moments, notably in the Scottish Cup, but his form dropped at the worst possible time for his new club at the tail end of last term.

2) John Souttar

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Has at least one major injury every season but is typically excellent when he is fit enough to play. One of the best ball-playing centre-backs in the league when available and has earned three Scotland caps at Tynecastle. Not bad for a youngster who Dundee United fans were happy to see the back of.

1) Steven Naismith

Signed on loan which bled into another loan and then a permanent deal. It’s not been all plain-sailing. He’s had injury problems, struggled for consistency last term and was captain when the club was relegated. Then again, he’s helped Hearts to some big results, is clearly one of the club’s best players even at 34 and is the undoubted leader on the park for the current side.

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