Paulo Sergio wants to manage in Scotland again after applying to return as Hearts boss last year.
The Portuguese coach told the Evening News he would seize the opportunity to work with another Ladbrokes Premiership club, although Hearts remains his dream job.
After winning the Scottish Cup with a memorable 5-1 win over rivals Hibs at Hampden in 2012, Sergio is still idolised by Tynecastle supporters. He sent his CV to club owner Ann Budge last August after she sacked head coach Ian Cathro, but the vacancy was filled when director of football Craig Levein agreed to return to the dugout.
Sergio, now 50, is out of work since leaving the Iranian club Foolad Khuzestan last year and would be interested in any offer from a Scottish club – even though it would put him in direct competition with Hearts.
“For sure my dream is Hearts, but if I get the chance to come back to Scotland I think I will grab that opportunity,” he said.
“I’m not in football just now because I don’t just want to grab any chance. After Hearts, I made some good choices and some bad choices. I want to be back in football but I want a solid project with good people. Money is important but it’s not everything.
“In the last few jobs, I didn’t get the luck to work with serious people. I’m being careful right now. I had a few invitations but I didn’t feel they were good for my career. I have to be very careful with my next step.”
He was back in Edinburgh last month to watch Hearts beat Hibs again in the Scottish Cup. On the field at half-time, his ‘5-1’ hand gesture proved popular with the Gorgie natives.
“It’s something all the people do to me when I’m in Edinburgh. They ask me for photos doing the ‘5-1’. It’s something in the Hearts history and it’s something for their supporters. It’s nothing more than that. It’s always with respect and not with provocation to the other ones.”
Sergio will watch Sunday’s quarter-final between Hearts and Motherwell from his home in Portugal but intends to revisit Hampden should his former club reach the final in May.
“For sure, I will be there. I will put my scarf on.” He can’t wear his famous maroon cardigan after donating it for auction in 2013 when Hearts entered administration. It is clear he still feels a strong bond with the fans.
“For me, it’s a great honour for me to feel what I feel each time I go back to Edinburgh. I will never forget the Hearts fans and their support. It’s in my soul. I’m now one of them, supporting Hearts, and hopefully we can win this cup again this year. I’m praying for that.”
He urged them to use the 2012 success and the euphoria it brought as motivation. “It’s because of this that the Hearts supporters are unique. Other people coming to work at Hearts, play for Hearts or manage Hearts can look at this as an inspiration. If they do something special for this football club, people will never forget them. It can be an inspiration for the squad to think about that and try to do it again.
“At this moment, we have stability at the club. Ann Budge and everybody working with her are doing a great job. It’s completely different to what we lived through in 2012.
“Craig is an experienced manager. He doesn’t need any advice from me. The only thing I can tell him is that I have my fingers crossed and I will support him. I hope he can be the next man to get his hands on that cup. He knows how he will be remembered if he can do that.
“I will watch Sunday’s game on the internet somewhere. I still keep in touch with a lot of the players from 2012 through Facebook and Whatsapp. I’m still close to my assistants, too. Sergio [Cruz] is still with me, [Alberto] Cabral is doing things outside football now but we are still in contact every day.”