Almost £20million in transfer fees brought Jota, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Alexandro Bernabei and Daizen Maeda to Parkhead permanently this summer. Aaron Mooy and Benjamin Siegrist arrived as free agents and Moritz Jenz is on loan from French side Lorient.
By comparison, Hearts paid modest six-figure sums to sign Lawrence Shankland, Kye Rowles, Jorge Grant and Alex Cochrane, whilst Alan Forrest and Lewis Neilson cost nothing as they were out of contract.
Neilson leads his team to Celtic Park on the back of a 2-1 defeat against FC Zurich in Thursday’s Europa League play-off first leg in Switzerland. The manager stressed that qualifying for Europe regularly can help Hearts close the financial gap to Celtic and Rangers, although realistically they may never be able to spend the same money.
“As you know in Scottish football, the divide is there. That’s the difficulty of it. We need to slowly try and get as close as we can,” explained Neilson. “The season we had last year allows us the chance to get European group-stage football and build gradually.
“Overnight we’re not going to match that spending power. We’ll probably never match it to be honest. But we can maybe consistently get European football and we can maybe get closer and closer and closer. It takes time.
“Celtic have spent a bit more money and signed a few more players. That’s Scottish football. Our job is to go there, make sure you try and negate these players and then find a way to win the game.”