Elie Youan hails strong relationship with Lee Johnson as Hibs boss challenges striker to become 'very wealthy'
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The attacker is on loan from St Gallen from Switzerland for the duration of the 2022/23 campaign with the Easter Road club holding an option to buy at the end of the deal.
He started up front in each of his new club’s first two league games after a delay in finalising his work permit meant he had to sit out the Premier Sports Cup campaign. Though he’s yet to get on the scoresheet, he has already endeared himself to the support with an assist for Martin Boyle in the dying seconds of Sunday’s Edinburgh derby draw with Hearts.
He was given man-of-the-match by the club for his performance, but his manager insists there is much more to come from the player as he gets used to his new team-mates and the demands of the management staff. In fact, Lee Johnson believes he’s got the ability to go to play at the highest level.
“He’s a top player,” said the Hibs head coach prior to Youan entering the media room at the Hibs Training Centre. “Boyle was like ‘wow, who is this? This guy is unreal’. But I don’t think everybody has seen the real Elie yet. They’ve seen flashes, but not consistency. Some of that is the team’s fault and some of that is him.
“If you look at his attributes, he’s rapid. He can repeatedly sprint, which is unusual for someone who is rapid. He’s really skillful in one-on-one situations and he can finish. What I’m working on with him is being more proactive rather than reactive.
“Part of that is understanding of the position, of the way we play and teammates around him. Sometimes working smart rather than too much. Being that schemer who can pick somebody’s pocket as they switch off. It’s not easy, because that's the football IQ piece.
“I think if he gets that I could see him having a very wealthy life in his retirement.”
After being informed by the press pack of Johnson’s comments, Youan revealed that his manager has been going the extra mile by constantly checking in on him and making sure he’s happy with his new life in Edinburgh as well as his football.
“First of all thanks to him for saying that. Before I knew some managers and they were all similar about my strengths because I run a lot and I am fast. So I was used to hearing that,” said Youan. “But this gaffer is different, he is really interested in me, about football and also outside of football, he is interested in my private life and that’s the biggest difference between him and other managers I have had.”
“No. I was surprised,” when asked if previous managers had ever sent him personal WhatsApp messages. “I have a good relationship with the gaffer and I know when I want to talk about something I can go to his office. It’s always open.
“The messages are not always about football. It’s often about other things. He knows me well now and he knows I’m a good player but he’s also interested in my life outside football. But we naturally also talk about football.”
In terms of results, Hibs have had a strong start to the campaign with four points from two games, though performances have yet to fully come together over 90 minutes, a trend which follows on from a League Cup group-stage where they were knocked from the competition due to defeats against Falkirk and Greenock Morton.
Youan insists the squad know they have to up their game if they want to use the current momentum to make this a successful season.
“Some players were excited, others were angry,” said Youan about the post-derby reaction in the dressing room. “Not angry about the result but angry at ourselves because if we had played like the end for the whole 90 minutes we could have won.
“It has brought us closer together. I saw the images after the goal and you can see every player, even the ones who weren’t playing, how excited they were. So it is very important to have these feelings.
“I think it can help the team for the next games because we are a young team with a lot of new players, myself included. We will keep looking forward to the rest of the season.”
Supporters will be hoping the connection between Youan and Boyle will increasingly bear fruit as the season progresses following the return of the Hibs hero after a seven-month spell in Saudi Arabia with Al-Faisaly.
“For the first game with Martin and I, it was perfect. It will get better and better so I am excited for the next games,” said Youan.
“I had heard of Martin but I didn’t know him personally before last weekend. I have been told he scored a lot of goals here before and that he was one of the best strikers the club has had. With his experience I think he can help me and help the team as well.”
Both of the attackers are known for their pace, which they use to frighten the life out of opposing defenders. But the big question is, which of them is fastest? Who would win in a race?
“Me, of course,” smiled Youan.