Goalkeeper Ofir Marciano insists he will always be 'a Hibs man' but says 'there is nothing more the club can do' to keep him at Easter Road
Ofir Marciano hasn’t reached the stage where he is counting down the days but, having refused a new contract offer, he is fully aware that his stay at Hibs is limited and he is determined to make the most of the time he has left.
Arriving in Leith just after the club had won the Scottish Cup, he would love to help them emulate that feat before he departs, even if the Covid restrictions would rob him of one of his burning ambitions.
“When I first came here I saw all the parades in Edinburgh and the celebrations down Leith Walk,” recalls the 31 year-old. “It’s something I have dreamed about repeating. But even if we win the cup now, with the restrictions, I’m not sure we would get those numbers.
“But my focus in the next two months is to try and do the best I can for the club and give something back to those amazing fans that supported me the last five years.
“We still have the Scottish Cup to play for and I would really like to win a trophy for the club and the fans.”
Signed by Neil Lennon in 2016, he says he hadn’t anticipated a prolonged stay. But that initial one-year deal was followed by a four-year contract, as he made a quality impression on the Scottish game, growing in stature as he helped the club reclaim a place in the Premiership, book a return to European competition and establish themselves as perennial challengers in the latter stages of the cup competitions.
“When I first came to the club we were in the Championship and I was a bit hesitant to come to the Scottish second division.
“But we had amazing staff here, the manager and the players - guys now playing at a higher level.
“When you see the facilities at the stadium and the training centre it’s really top, top level and I am someone who likes to go to his place of work every day and enjoy it. This is a place I really enjoy.
“My family like it here too. There are so many things that led to me staying five years even though when I first came I never thought it would be for so long.”
But, now, with a second child due this year, there is a responsibility to his family as well as himself, not just to squeeze as many positive experiences as possible into his career before it reaches its denouement, and an obligation to maximise his earnings so he can offer them greater financial security when that day does arrive.
“There are some factors in this decision and one of them is the one you mentioned. I am not trying to hide it.
“The club tried their best to keep me here, and I have full respect for that. The club respects me and I respect them, we know there is nothing more they can do.”
Having considered what manager Jack Ross described as the best offer the club could muster, Marciano did not want to keep them dangling and earlier this month he delivered a ‘thank you but no thank you’ response, informing them that he would, instead be moving on when his current contract expires this summer.
Leaving a place he calls his second home will not be an emotionless experience, though.
“As I said, it is not an easy decision for me because I will always see myself as a Hibs man. My family is settled here, I had my first son in Scotland, the club has been so good to me, and I have really enjoyed my football here over the last five years.
"So, it has not been an easy decision. But it is something I have to do for myself and I think most people would agree with me. There are so many things behind this decision.
“You don’t know what the future holds and what the final result will be.
“When I came to Hibs I just wanted to enjoy the atmosphere, the fans, the training centre, the games. I was so busy creating things I never thought about the end of it.
“Now I know I have these last two months at Hibs I really want to enjoy them. After that I don’t know [where I will end up], but at the moment this is what I am trying to achieve.”
After this afternoon’s trip to Livingston, where Hibs will be looking for their 12th clean of the season and a place in the club’s record books with a best-ever tally of 11 away league wins in a season, Marciano has the chance to place himself in the shop window while on international duty with Israel. Not that he will be thinking that way.
“Yes, it’s always a good stage to show yourself. But, it’s not the first time I play for my country and I just try to help my team take as many points as we can in the three games. If I think about people coming to watch me for my future then I probably won’t play so well so I try to stay focused.”
One of those games is against Scotland - “I think I have played against Scotland more than any club in the league this year - four times!” - and while he will be playing to win, as he prepares to say goodbye, he recognises the part the country has played in his life and in his career.
“I am definitely a better goalkeeper now compared to when I arrived. The biggest thing is the mental improvement. To play for Hibs there are always expectations and demands.
“It took me a while to understand that but now I know every game you pull on the shirt you have a standard you need to reach because there’s so many fans looking forward to seeing you perform for them.”