New Hearts striker Bjorn Johnsen recalls pain of missing out on Benfica switch



New Hearts striker Bjorn Johnsen admits the delay in completing his switch to Tynecastle was excruciating – but nothing like the pain of being denied a dream move to Portuguese giants Benfica.

The towering American climbed off the bench in Saturday’s 5-1 win over Inverness and immediately made an impact after setting up Sam Nicholson for the first of his double with an audacious back heel.

Johnson had been unveiled as the club’s latest new srecuit three weeks ago but the move was held up after former club CSKA Sofia claimed he was still contracted to them.

(Pic: Twitter @JamTarts)
(Pic: Twitter @JamTarts)

The case went to FIFA and football’s governing body finally gave Hearts the green light on Friday.

Johnson was frustrated by the dispute but admits the he was even more disappointed when Atletico CP rejected an offer from Benfica in 2014 during his time in Portugal.

Johnsen, who left America to play with Valerenga in Norway when he was 18 before moving to Spain, Portugal then Bulgaria, said: “Benfica were very interested in me. I was actually very close to signing but my club just wouldn’t let me go.

“That was really tough. It was definitely harder than waiting to play for Hearts. But that’s the way it goes.

“My club was having financial problems. A lot of places in Portugal and Spain were in crisis at that point. They don’t have money and they always want the higher bids. The club got a higher bid from someone else and I went there.

“I tried to help out the team I was playing for because most of the guys I was playing alongside weren’t getting salaries.

“They were getting paid every three months and they had kids, families.

“I was 22 and just wanting to be paid a little bit of money to play and try and make it up through the ranks. It was really hard for my older team-mates, but I only really made my pay on bonuses.”

The friendly Johnson, who can speak Portuguese, Spanish and Norwegian, was thrilled to make his debut after having the contract wrangle settled.

He added: “I’ve been waiting, patiently, a long time for that.

“I was more disappointed because I didn’t think they would do that. I’m not really the kind of person to go and fight about things like that.

“Was I worried the transfer here might not go through? There are always doubts in your mind but my dad and the club helped me through it.”