BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
ALLAN JOHNSTON insists Dunfermline pushed the boat out for Faissal El Bakhtaoui and revealed the French-Moroccan front-man was set to return to East End Park before a late swoop by Dundee.
El Bakhtaoui, 23, inspired the Pars to the League One title last term with a sensational 30-goal haul but was keen to explore his options when his contract expired in May.
After an extended break in Cannes, he spent an unsuccessful trial period with Blackburn Rovers amid interest from various other parties.
However, Dunfermline assembled their most lucrative possible package and never gave up hope of tempting the player back to Fife.
Earlier this week Johnston was sure he had succeeded – only for the Dens Park side to snap him up after freeing up resources following the departure of Kane Hemmings to Oxford United.
Johnston rued: “We had hoped to keep hold of Faiss so we were really disappointed to lose out on that one.
“Right up until the last minute I thought there was a great chance of us getting him, but Dundee came in at the death and pipped us to the post.
“We did our very best to get him back on board, we made him the best offer we possibly could have and if Dundee had not come in when they did then I believe Faiss would be a Dunfermline player again.
“He was a massive player for us last season and we wish him well because he gave everything for this club last year.
“However, we need to move on and hopefully we can bring in another striker capable of scoring goals this year.”
Despite being untested at top-flight level, Johnston firmly believes El Bakhtaoui can handle the step up and help to fill the void left by Hemmings.
Johnston, speaking as the Pars unveiled the League One championship flag which will be unfurled against Dumbarton tomorrow, added: “I think he’ll do really well at Dundee.
“Faiss is a very talented player and has plenty of ambition and quality – that’s the reason why we were so desperate to keep him.”