There can be few more cultural gifts handed over in European football than the one Bologna gave Hearts to mark the two clubs meeting in the second round of the UEFA Cup in October 1990.
This mini statue of Neptune can be seen on a much larger scale at the Fountain of Neptune in the city square of Piazza del Nettuno in Bologna. It shows Neptune, the god of freshwater and the sea, extending extending his arm in a lordly gesture of stilling and controlling the waters.
Neptune is the counterpart of the Greek god Poseidon. In the Greek-influenced tradition, Neptune was the brother of Jupiter and Pluto. The three brothers presided over the realms of heaven, the earthly world and the underworld. Salacia was his wife.
It is said that Neptune was likely associated with freshwater springs before the sea. Like Poseidon, Neptune was worshipped by the Romans also as a god of horses, under the name Neptunus Equester, a patron of horseracing.
Bologna officials brought him to Edinburgh as a gift to their European opponents some 27 years ago. Long before the competition was renamed, restructured and rebranded as the Europa League, the UEFA Cup enjoyed a popular straight knockout format and didn’t get underway until mid-September.
Hearts beat Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (then a Soviet club, now Ukrainian) in the first round in season 1990/91 to set up a meeting with the Italians.
Although Bologna were highly fancied, they lost 3-1 at Tynecastle on Wednesday, October 24, 1990.
Hearts’ goalscorers were Wayne Foster, who struck twice, and Iain Ferguson. Their efforts helped set up a tense away leg in Italy and the Edinburgh club were confident of progressing under then-manager Joe Jordan. However, a 3-0 defeat at the Stadio Dall’Ara put paid to their European aspirations for the season.
• See more great items from Hearts’ history at the club’s museum. For opening times, go to www.heartsfc.co.uk/pages/museum