Bruno Aguiar recalls how Hearts 'destroyed' Hibs in semi-final and calls for 2026 reunion
Paul Hartley's energy dovetailed with Rudi Skacel's swagger while Julien Brellier's aggression complemented the class of Takis Fyssas. The Hearts 2006 vintage was a joy to behold.
Never more so than in that year's Scottish Cup semi-final, a thumping 4-0 win over rivals Hibernian at Hampden Park. Aguiar remembers it well. It was his Edinburgh derby debut; the day he properly learned the meaning of that particular fixture.
The Portuguese is now 39 and no longer involved in football. He retired four years ago after finishing his career with Oriental of Lisbon. These days, he works in property investment.
He is still sufficiently aware of the Scottish Cup semi-final taking place in Glasgow this Saturday. Sixteen years after Hartley’s hat-trick and an Edgaras Jankauskas goal took Hearts past Hibs into the final, Aguiar is willing a repeat.
‘We destroyed them’
“That was a fantastic day for us. We played a fantastic game, we scored four goals, we destroyed them,” he said, speaking exclusively to the Evening News from his home in Portugal’s capital city.
“When the game started, I remember we went straight for them and tried to win from kick-off. They did not have a chance to even discuss the result. We were perfect.
“At that time, I didn’t understand very well what kind of game this was. Okay, it’s a derby but before you play in it you don’t understand it too well. That day, I understood that it was the biggest game for the city of Edinburgh.
“I think the fans liked how we played that game and when they saw how I played, I think they were happy. Everything was perfect.”
The post-match celebrations are not quite so vivid in his mind. “I think we had a little party in the dressing room but I don't remember coming back to Edinburgh.”
It must have been some party. “I remember more when we won the cup a few weeks later [against Gretna]. We were on the big bus and it was fantastic.”
Taken by surprise
One of 11 signings at Tynecastle Park in January 2006, Aguiar established a permanent place and a cult following in Gorgie. He would eventually become Hearts’ talisman. Initially, he harboured some scepticism about standards within the squad.
“I came from Benfica and I was used to playing with good players. I didn’t expect Hearts would have such good players,” he admitted. “Okay, they were doing very well and when I started to watch the games, I thought: ‘Wow, this team has fantastic players.’
“There was Paul Hartley, Rudi Skacel, the captain Steven Pressley, Jankauskas who I knew from Portugal, Fyssas. It was a little bit of a surprise for me. I thought Paul Hartley and Rudi Skacel could play in England.”
Could it have been better?
The diminutive number eight might have earned his own opportunity down south but for injuries. One training-ground tackle by Brellier sidelined him for 18 months, although he recovered remarkably to inspire Hearts’ European assault in 2009.
Aguiar left Scotland that summer to join the Cypriot club Omonia Nicosia, returning to his homeland with Oriental five years later. He still wonders if he might have played at a higher level.
“As a footballer, I was a little bit unlucky. I had a lot of problems with injuries. It takes away your intensity if you cannot go a long time without injuries. I know I had quality but sometimes it is not enough.
“If you play for three months, then stop for a month with injury, you are starting and stopping all the time. You lose your competition. That was difficult for me. It was not only the foot, even in my muscles I had some problems.
“I was born like that, I could not do anything. It was not because I did not eat well or rest well, nothing like this. I did everything perfect but I was unlucky in my football. I cannot cry because I had a good life in football and my time at Hearts was one of the best.
“When I came back from injury I felt so good and the fans there supported me a lot. You feel that the people like you and it is a great feeling.”
Adulation is not enough to make him think about returning to his favourite sport. “I enjoy life, my friend. I don’t think about coming back to football soon so we will see.”
Let’s meet again
He does miss old Hearts colleagues. Social media helps provide updates on their lives. “We have Instagram and Facebook so sometimes I see photos and comment on them, so we speak that way,” said Aguiar.
“I still speak with Karipidis in Greece, with Jose [Goncalves], with Jankauskas, and I keep in touch with Skacel on Instagram.
“With social media, you cannot forget everyone. We are still close to each other that way and it’s good. I think we must find a way for all of this team to meet again in Edinburgh.
“In 2026, maybe we can do something because it will be 20 years since we won the cup. Coronavirus will hopefully be gone so we can all be together.”
Perhaps they will board another open-top bus and drive down The Mound. That won’t be possible due to restrictions if Hearts manage to lift this year’s Scottish Cup, but Aguiar knows the satisfaction of beating Hibs en-route would be some consolation.