HEARTS head coach Robbie Neilson hailed the capture of Juwon Oshaniwa last night after the Nigerian international signed a three-year contract with the Tynecastle club following his protracted transfer from the Israeli club Ashdod.
The left-back joined his new team-mates in training for the first time yesterday morning, although Hearts are still awaiting international clearance and the defender will not play against St Johnstone today.
“It’s been a long process to get him here in Edinburgh, but he’s here now and he’s desperate to get started,” Neilson told the Hearts website. “He’s a top quality player and he’ll bring a lot of qualities to our squad. We’re all very happy with this move.”
Oshaniwa featured in all of Nigeria’s matches at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, playing against Argentina, France, Iran and Bosnia.
The 24-year-old, who has spent the past three years at Ashdod, said: “I want to tell you how happy I am, despite all the delays and all the hitches. Finally I am in the family of Hearts.”
Neilson, meanwhile, has backed Aberdeen to push Celtic all the way to the Premiership title and said that the Pittodrie club have set the benchmark for every other club in the top flight, including the newly-promoted Tynecastle side.
The Dons finished second to Celtic last season, running the Parkhead side close for much of the season.
“It’s encouraging for everyone in Scottish football that a team like that can have such a good season and push Celtic so far,” Neilson said. “I am sure Derek [McInnes, the Aberdeen manager] will want to do it again and I don’t see why they can’t.
“Aberdeen have proved they are the second best team in Scotland at the moment. They have a good squad and a good manager. There’s a lot of experience in there and there’s winning mentality as well. They are the one we look at and will try and get as close as we can.”
He praised the Pittodrie side who have been making progress year on year under McInnes and Neilson says he hopes Hearts can emulate that and make some giant strides of their own.
“Aberdeen should be up near the top of the league and we should be as well. We have had a period where it’s been difficult for us, we went down to the Championship and we are still in the rebuilding process so we are not going to aim too high but we want to get as high as we can.”