Hearts defender Blazej Augustyn has described his former boss Diego Simeone as “a madman” as he prepares to embark on the latest chapter of a career which has already seen him rub shoulders with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alessandro Del Piero and Nicolas Anelka.
As a raw teenager with Bolton Wanderers during their halcyon days in Europe under Sam Allardyce, the Pole lapped up the lessons on offer from the galaxy of stars at the club a decade ago.
After a switch to Legia Warsaw, which he acknowledges was a mis-step born from a childhood desire to play for the giants of Polish football, he made a move to Italian side Catania, where he lived his “dream” of pitting his wits against some true Calcio greats.
He also turned out for Rimini and Vicenza during his “special” time in Italy, but perhaps the most intriguing aspect of his CV – particularly given his decision to come to Edinburgh and work under one of the quiet men of Scottish football, Robbie Neilson – was his relationship with the notoriously ferocious Simeone.
He clearly does not hold the current Atletico Madrid manager, who led the Spanish club to their first La Liga title since 1996 and reached the Champions League final in 2014, in particularly high regard as a person following their time together at Catania. Nevertheless, he is circumspect about the experience and is quick to highlight how every stop on a varied career path has helped to make him the player he is.
“I worked with Diego Simeone and I played a few games. He is a madman and I cannot speak about him too much because I didn’t like him,” he said.
He’s a madman and I cannot speak about him too much as I didn’t like himBlazej Augustyn on Simeone
“His training as a coach and the way he set the team up were very good but I did not like other things about him. However, Italy was a very nice experience for me. It allowed me to play in Serie A and it was always my dream to play alongside and against great players.
“I also met my ex-wife over there and my daughter is Italian, so it is a special country for me. I played against Zlatan [Ibrahimovic], Alessandro Del Piero, Antonio Cassano. It was a great experience.
“Earlier in my career, at Bolton, I was also able to train with Jay-Jay Okocha, Ivan Campo and Nicolas Anelka. That is great experience.”
It is clear the former Poland under-21 international, who was affable and honest despite the language barrier, is destined to be a massive character in the Tynecastle dressing room.
Augustyn is, however, unlikely to find favour with the Scottish tourist board after revealing some of the juicier details of his conversation with former Dundee United defender Jaroslaw Fojut when he canvassed his close friend for career advice.
“I asked how it was to live in Scotland – he told me that Dundee is a s*** city, but Edinburgh is very nice,” he laughed. “I don’t like to live in small cities, I feel too claustrophobic. I like to have places to go and nice restaurants.
“I was more asking him all about the cities in Scotland, because I already knew a lot about the teams and I have a few friends already living in Edinburgh.
“Jaroslaw told me that joining Hearts would be the perfect move for me. He knows me, he knows how I play and he knows what style of football I like. He said I would love the Premiership.”
Augustyn, who assured Hearts fans that his fitness problems are a thing of the past after suffering two separate cruciate knee ligament injuries, arrives on these shores with lofty ambitions.
“One time I won the Polish Cup with Legia. I think it is about time I won something again,” he continued.
Meanwhile, Juwon Oshaniwa, who could formally join Hearts as early as next week, insists he is thrilled by the prospect of the challenge.
The 24-year-old has verbally agreed a deal and has been granted a conditional British work permit for the move, and it is hoped he could complete the switch next week.
Speaking to the press in his homeland, the Nigerian internationalist said: “I told my agent to sort out the details with Hearts as soon as they showed interest. It is now tied up and I am excited looking forward to this fresh challenge.”