Takis Fyssas at 48 remains the same guy he was in his mid-30s: Elegant, polite, and full of absorbing football tales. Whether it’s Benfica, Hearts, Panathinaikos or Euro 2004, you could literally spend all day listening to him without feeling bored. There isn’t time for that on Scottish Cup final week, unfortunately.
He will have a keen eye on events at Hampden Park this weekend in between duties as the Greek Football Federation’s technical director. Hearts’ showpiece end to the season against Rangers is an event Fyssas knows intimately from 2006.
Hearts will bank the biggest European jackpot in their history after reaching the cup final and guaranteeing group-stage football on the Continent later this year. It’s not quite enough for Fyssas. He suggests he might be a candidate to help take the club to new levels of accomplishment.
“Robbie is an excellent person,” he says. “He knew he was not a fantastic player. He knew his value so he never wanted to do more than he could. He was very useful for the team and his team-mates. He was also passionate so, as a player, I had great respect for him and I have the same opinion of him as a person.
“In 2015 I was in Edinburgh on a secret mission as technical director of Panathinaikos. I wanted to see a central defender. I cannot say the name now because it’s not appropriate. I was at Tynecastle and I saw Robbie. He was coach of Hearts.
“I was in the dressing room after the game and we spoke about the player I was interested in for Panathinaikos. Of course, we also spoke about all the memories we had together. He was very polite and friendly with me. We had an excellent understanding and it was the same when were players.
“After that, I kept watching his career. Hearts had difficult moments and they were in the second division. Last year was a good season, I believe. This year is a successful season for the club.
“In my opinion, Hearts can do better. They need a push and some nice ideas. You cannot have success only with money. I believe they are in a good way.
“I think I have my ideas about football. I have worked as a technical director since 2008, either with the national team or with Panathinaikos. If I can say this now, it is my dream to come to Edinburgh again and work for Hearts because I believe this team can do better.”
The player he wanted was Danny Wilson, club captain at the time. Fyssas laughs when that name is put to him. “You said so,” he replies with a smile, a wrinkle etching itself across his defiantly-youthful face almost with a sigh of apology.
Hearts’ current sporting director, Joe Savage, is doing a fine job and certainly won’t fancy being edged out. Fyssas remains the proverbial Greek God at Tynecastle after two years of sterling left-back service during the Vladimir Romanov era, so a future return cannot be dismissed entirely.
Until then, cup memories flood his mind whenever Hearts crop up in conversation. Rangers’ Europa League final against Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday is just three days before they step out at Hampden. It’s a familiar distraction to Fyssas.
“It reminds me a lot of when I played for Benfica against Porto before 2004. Porto played Monaco in the Champions League final and they won 3-0. But one week earlier, we played them in the Portuguese Cup final and we won 2-1 in extra-time.
“I scored to make it 1-1. I think Porto mostly had the desire to play in the Champions League final and it was an opportunity for Benfica to bring trophies to the club.
“This cup was the first for ten years and then Benfica started to rise again. Because Rangers have another final to play, maybe it’s time for Hearts to give everything and show them that they want this cup more.
“Porto had a fantastic team with [Jose] Mourinho as manager, Deco, Derlei, plus the Portuguese players like Costinha and Maniche. It was a fantastic period in Portugal.
“We were not favourites but Benfica-Porto is still a derby. It's like Real-Barcelona, Panathinaikos-Olympiakos, Hearts-Hibs or Rangers-Celtic. We had a desire to win the cup because it was the only target.
“You never forget this. That's why I compare this to the Scottish Cup with Hearts. For me, it was something very important to achieve our targets with a team which probably many Scottish people didn't expect to win.”
It’s also ten years since Hearts last won a major trophy. The omens are stacking up if you’re into that sort of thing. “Winning Euro 2004 was a dream. Even now we can't believe we won it, but the Scottish Cup is in my heart,” says Fyssas.
“I remember the semi-final against Hibs. I was so mad. The coach [Valdas Ivanauskas] told me I had to be rested because I was almost 35 and I needed to rest myself. I was terrible on the bench but I played the whole second half and the team were fantastic. Paul Hartley and Rudi Skacel were unbelievable.
“I needed to come to Hearts two or three years earlier when I was younger. I wanted to play much better and win more trophies with the club because I believed in that moment we were between Rangers and Celtic. We finished second. I think that Hearts can rise more and start to be there again.”
An Audience with Takis Fyssas takes place at the O2 Academy in Edinburgh on Sunday, June 26.
For tickets please visit www.headlineevents.online/takis-fyssas