Combine Julien Brellier’s physical tenacity with Bruno Aguiar’s technique and you’d have an identikit Hearts midfielder. The former Tynecastle defender Jose Goncalves believes new loan signing Joaquim Adao is the perfect mix of those Gorgie cult heroes.
Goncalves played with Adao at FC Sion in Switzerland and recalls a player with Brellier’s grit and strength but the deft touch and vision of Aguiar. Hearts supporters got a first glimpse of the Angolan internationalist in Saturday’s win over St Johnstone, and Goncalves has told them to expect the new arrival to grow into a dominant midfield force.
“He has the toughness of Brellier but also the ability of Bruno,” said the Portuguese, a team-mate of both Brellier and Aguiar during his four-and-a-half-year stint in Edinburgh between 2006 and 2010.
“Of course, Bruno was a little magician. Joaquim is maybe not a magician like Bruno but once he wins the ball he can play. He will pass forward or sideways, he does not just win the ball and play backwards to stay simple. He will look forward. That is a good attribute in modern football.
“He is very good physically. He is strong and he can win a lot of challenges in the middle of the park. That will help the team a lot, especially in Scottish football. That’s the type of player you want in your team – a tough No.6 or No.8 who can win balls and go box to box. Joaquim has a big engine. He is also very good technically.”
Adao called Goncalves – now playing in India’s Super League with North East United – for advice on Hearts before signing his four-month loan deal.
“I told him it’s a great club and a big club in the Capital. I spent four-and-a-half years there and I have great memories. I know Hearts are very stable now and they have a plan for the future. It was a no-brainer.
“I told Joaquim this was a good chance for him to improve. Hearts is a good team playing in a big league. He made his decision and I think he decided well.”
In conversation, Goncalves suspected Adao had already decided his next destination.
“No, no, he wanted to come. Because I played with him, he knew I played there so he called to ask me. It is good when you know someone and you can ask him about the club and the city. I could help him there but, in the end, he made the decision. He told me he wanted to go there and I said it was a good choice. I said Hearts is a good club and they treat people very well. It was a simple conversation.”
Likening any player to Brellier or Aguiar is hefty praise, but someone with the best of both would be unprecedented. If Goncalves’ comparison proves correct, Hearts would be well advised to explore the possibility of signing Adao permanently.
“Of course, but it will depend on his contribution at the club,” said Goncalves. “I have no doubts he is the right type of player for Scottish football and the right type of player for Hearts. I’m sure he will have a great time there. Hopefully, he does not get any injuries.
“He has a lot of experience in Europe even though he is still young. I think he will help the club. At the end of the loan, I think Hearts will be looking to sign him.
“He is a very hungry guy who will give everything in training and games. He has two children so he is young but he has a family. That is good for him because he is used to responsibility. It doesn’t worry him.
“He has always been a quiet guy, a family guy with his children and his wife. When you have a guy coming into your team who is quiet and settled, it’s even better.”
The Portuguese headed to India last September following four years in Major League Soccer with New England Revolution. The language barrier would put many players off, but not the multi-lingual centre-back. He speaks six languages – French, Italian, German, Portuguese, English and Spanish.
“And Scottish,” he laughed. “I only speak a few words of Indian but nearly everybody speaks English in our team. There are some South Americans in my team so we speak Spanish or Portuguese. It’s easy for me. I spent four years in the United States and I got the chance to go to Asia. I had never played here. You have known me for many years and I never back away from a new challenge. I like challenges so I am try to play my best football.
“My contract is for one year, which is good for me and the club. They can see if they want me to stay and I can see if I would like to stay.
“I am not 19 or 20 any more. I don’t have 15 years left but I try to do the best with the options I have in football. I want to gain more experience in football and in life, and I want to start building my career after football.”