Can dynamic Hibs duo's shared history make difference in top-six scrap?

Maolida and Youan have combined for four goals and five assists in last four league games.Maolida and Youan have combined for four goals and five assists in last four league games.
Maolida and Youan have combined for four goals and five assists in last four league games.
Wingers invited to ‘let the magic happen’ by grateful gaffer

It’s a partnership forged in the famous French youth system, paying dividends for a Scottish Premiership team battling to salvage a degree of respectability from a difficult league campaign. The pairing of former France Under-18 team-mates Myziane Maolida and Elie Youan might just make all the difference to Hibs during the closing sprint for a top-six place.

Youan’s recent purple patch, the winger chipping in with five assists in his last four league games, has coincided with Maolida scoring in each of his last four Premiership outings. Born just a couple of months apart, they’re clearly bringing out the best in each other. And have been since their days as young disciples of the French street football philosophy known as “tcheks play”.

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Laughing at the idea that he should be leaning heavily on Maolida to commit to Hibs beyond the end of his short-term loan from Hertha Berlin, Youan explained: “What can I say? He is a good guy; we played a couple of games back in the days with the under-18 national team. I think the connection is just natural, we don’t need to talk a lot on the pitch, it’s just about natural connection. I understand him well.

“We spend a lot of time together away from the pitch and we are on the same page to help the team. I think that’s why lately it has been pretty good between the two of us. It’s still not enough. I’m excited to show more again, even if we reach the top six.”

Asked if the arrival of Maolida in January had made him a better player, Youan didn’t hesitate to respond, the wide man – who celebrates his 25th birthday tomorrow - declaring: “Yeah, with a player like Myziane I can express the best of me. I can play free; I know if I make a run, he will understand what I will try and do. He always tries to reach me. I do it with every player but with him it’s more natural because we are from the same (footballing) school. He helped me a lot like I do with him.

"Back in the day he was playing at the top and I was on the right. Even in the national team ... as I say, sometimes you don't need to talk. I don't have the right words to explain, but it's just like ... he loves the ball and I love the ball, so it's just more easy.

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"We first played together for the France Under-18s, we played against Italy - it was a long, long time ago. I always found him a very good player, and back in the day he was more technical than me. I think I improved myself and we took different roads, but now we are on the same team. I'm very happy to have him here.”

It's noticeable that, when Maolida and Youan are lined up on opposite sides of the pitch, the concept of starting positions is just that. A useful guide for defensive shape. But no more than a suggestion when Hibs are in possession of the ball. They regularly work in tandem to overload one side or support each other in the centre.

"The only thing the manager can say is defensive work, but offensively we are free,” explained Youan, who hopes to be lining up against St Johnstone at Easter Road in this afternoon’s must-win game for a team still battling to secure a top-six finish. “He says do your thing, just don't do silly things but try and let the magic happen. On the pitch it's easier when you've got a player who understands you, who wants to play with you and wants to help the team.

“It's very easy with Myziane. We hang out together. We love to stay on the pitch after hours, to do extra work, to make our relationship on the pitch better for helping the team.

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"To be honest, we weren't that close back in the day, but you know, sometimes I would have a look at the team-mates. We have a lot of friends in common. Before coming here he texted me: ‘How are you doing bro? Tell me about Hibs …’ Which I did, and he came. I think everybody is happy to have him around here.”

Seven goals since arriving in January speaks to a scoring ability likely to attract multiple suitors this summer. A former 10 million Euro player when still a teenager, Maolida’s profile – despite his struggles in Germany – means any spike in form will put him on the radar of any club in search of a proven goal threat. The fact that Hertha definitely don’t want him back only guarantees more interest.

On the prospect of his pal extending his Easter Road stay beyond the summer, Youan said: "I think that's Myziane's choice. I cannot talk instead of him. I think he's happy, actually. He wasn't in a good place a couple of months ago and now he starts enjoying playing football again. I think the most important thing actually is to reach the top six and we'll see what happens after that.

"The only thing I can do to persuade him is to give him assists to score. That's the only thing I can do!”