Jose Goncalves was good when he signed from FC Thun, keeping Lee Wallace out the team and challenging Takis Fyssas – and when moved to central defence he wasn’t too bad either. Then the 2006/07 season began and what happened ? He was utter mince! Even accounting for a few injuries, it was baffling how such a good player could become quite so poor. He was eventually loaned out to Nuremberg where I believe he struggled just as he had with Hearts – the “try before you buy” offer was not taken up ! Then something amazing happened, upon his return to a team with Csaba at the helm, he was good again! So good in fact he made it into Carlos Queiroz’s initial Portugal squad for the World Cup. Here was a Hearts player, potentially in a team capable of winning the World Cup ! Well, it got me excited !! Alas it was not to be, as within days of this announcement and following JJ`s return to Hearts, Jose was on the sidelines having refused to sign a contract extension. He’s now playing in Switzerland again.
Bruno Aguiar was one of the real successes though. He’d played in a championship-winning Benfica side the season before – a classy midfielder who slotted well into the cup-winning team, and though he was tormented by injury, always seemed up for the challenge unlike so many others over this period. Most disappointing for me was the red card against AEK for throwing the ball away. In that act, he gave them a massive chance to win that first leg and boy did they take it. In 2008 he returned from a lengthy injury (approx 18 months, inflicted allegedly by a certain Mr J. Brellier in training) to score a free-kick against Hibs. He became a key player for the rest of that season as we doggedly fought to third. I believe he was our top scorer that season, though in fairness that said as much about the strikers as it did about Bruno! Though he left Hearts, it was on good terms and moved to AC Omonia in Cyprus where I believe he has enjoyed considerable success. I was disappointed to see him go there though, since I think he was good enough for one of the better leagues.
Mirsad Beslija – so, so disappointing. Hearts record transfer for £850,000 from Genk. He made only a handful of starts, and even fewer decent games (I counted one, though I may have dreamt it). My friend suggested his biggest influence was briefing Valdas on Siroki Brijeg! He had many injuries, and was loaned back to Belgium where he had been successful pre-Hearts. However it was not to be and he was eventually released. Surely he stands as the biggest disappointment (and waste of money) under the Romanov regime.
Ludek Straceny and Martin Petras signed almost at midnight on deadline day. Straceny who joined from FK Viktoria Zizkov, had scored against Rangers in the Uefa cup earlier in the year and had been capped by the Czechs previously, so had at least some impression of pedigree; while Petras was also an international for Slovakia and joined from Sparta Prague. Both hardly played a game – I’d bet less than ten between them – and were poor on every occasion I saw them. Straceny went back to Viktoria in the end, while Petras has actually done ok for himself-after a few poor spells, he can now be found plying his trade in SerieA !
Finally, signed earlier in the window I think, but a story that seems to have skipped by many of my fellow hearts fans, the young keeper Rais M’Bohli, who had been released by Marseille. He never played for Hearts, and after leaving, seems to have toured teams in Greece and Japan, before finally enjoying success in Bulgaria. He had trials with Man Utd and was touted around several other English teams – Newcastle were reported to have bid £1million at one stage! It came to nothing, but while he now plays in Russia – he achieved something no other foreign ex-Hearts player (that I can think of at least) did by representing his country (Algeria) in the World Cup. He played against England, and while shutting out Rooney and co wasn’t spellbinding, credit where it’s due for achieving that after passing through the Hearts ‘Circus’!