Paulo Sergio became a Hearts legend when he delivered the Scottish Cup – but the Portuguese admits he is just as proud knowing he played a part in saving the club.
The Portuguese met up with Foundation of Hearts directors in Edinburgh yesterday and was presented with his own tribute jersey.
Sergio has his name alongside the 8,000 other fans on the unique FoH top. The jersey recognises those supporters who helped take Hearts out of administration in 2014 with the backing of current owner Ann Budge.
The 47-year-old, who masterminded the 5-1 Scottish Cup final thrashing of city rivals Hibs in 2012, is back in Scotland to take in Hearts’ fifth round tie against their Leith counterparts on Sunday.
Sergio said: “I’m hugely proud to have my name on the Foundation of Hearts tribute kit. I really feel like I’m part of this great club, this fantastic history – and feel like I’ve helped in the recovery of the club.
“I have to say many thanks to the Foundation of Hearts. They supported me a lot and they’ve done a fantastic job in helping saving the club along with Ann Budge.
“I hope the Foundation will always be around because a big club needs a big foundation around it.
“It’s great to see what has been achieved with the great support of the fans and it’s a big honour for me to be involved in it as well.
“It’s not a big surprise that the fans rallied round but at the same time, every day we should remember that and be proud of that.
“Hearts supporters are unique, I don’t see what they did for their club in any other part of the world. The quick return to the Premiership was possible because of everyone.”
Sergio lasted just one season at Hearts after he refused then owner Vladimir Romanov’s offer of a new contract on vastly reduced terms in the wake of the cup triumph, but he admits Edinburgh feels like home.
Sergio added: “I come to Edinburgh with the feeling that I’m home, you can’t imagine it.
“It’s a fantastic feeling, I’m Portuguese but when I arrive in this city I really feel like I’m home and there are no words to describe that.
“I think it was the respect. Sometimes you don’t win, get titles or targets but it’s always important to get the respect of the people.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the fans against on Sunday, it will be amazing. In the first place we want to win this game but it will be a joy to be in their company and be with them. It will be great to be back at Tynecastle.”