Edgaras Jankauskas, the Lithuania national team coach, would ordinarily favour a trip to Tynecastle if travelling to Edinburgh. The highly-regarded former Hearts striker could find, however, that Easter Road is about to become his Capital venue of choice in the upcoming season as Hibs bid to increase their contingent of current Lithuania internationalists to two.
The robust 6ft 3in target man Deivydas Matulevicius was last week recruited on a two-year contract. And Neil Lennon has been busy over the past couple of days trying to convince the highly-regarded 22-year-old midfielder, Vykintas Slivka, to follow his countryman to Scotland.
Matulevicius has won 33 caps and remains a prominent member of Jankauskas’s squad, featuring in all three of his country’s matches this calendar year. Ernestas Setkus, Lithuania’s first-choice goalkeeper, is in no doubt about his compatriot’s qualities. “I think it’s a good choice for Hibs to sign Deivydas because he is tall and very strong and will adapt very quickly to Scottish football,” said Setkus, who has been in touch with Matulevicius to congratulate him on his move to Hibs. “He wins the duels and holds the ball up. He has a lot of experience. He has played in good teams in Romania and recently in the top league in Belgium. As far as I know the team in Belgium [Royal Mouscron] wanted to keep him but they couldn’t find agreement.
“He does not play in the starting XI for the national team but that is only because the coach prefers a more flexible striker who can dribble the ball to start games. Deivydas is more of a target man and he comes on as a sub in every game, but if we played with two strikers, he would definitely be in the starting XI. He still plays a big role for the national team, in the last game against Slovakia he was very active and very positive in the game.”
Slivka is viewed as one of Lithuania’s brightest prospects after spending the past four years on the books of Juventus. Although he hasn’t played for the Turin giant, he has enjoyed first-team experience during loan stints in Slovenia, Holland and Italy’s Serie B, while also winning 17 caps over the last two years and establishing himself as one of his country’s key players. The all-action 6ft 2in midfielder has started all six of Lithuania’s World Cup qualifiers over the past year, scoring in their opening match against Slovenia and setting up their goal in the 1-1 draw with Scotland at Hampden in October.
“Vykintas is a very promising guy,” said Setkus. “He played very well against Scotland at Hampden. He is a good prospect. He can play as a defensive midfielder or as an attacking midfielder. He has a good combination of everything. He has good stamina and is strong but also he is very flexible and good with the ball. He is a very creative player, who makes lots of assists.
“He is also very tall and can play in the air, but I wouldn’t say aerial duels is the strongest point of his game. He scored a very nice goal against Slovenia and has had chances in other games. He can shoot from long distance and get in the box to finish attacks. He’s an unpredictable player.
“He made his debut for the national team very young and now he is playing every game. For his age, he has a lot of experience. He did some training with the first team of Juventus so he has seen how the best players in the world train. He is still young but he is a very interesting player who can develop into a very good player.”
Setkus, who was the subject of interest from Hearts and Kilmarnock in the past, is confident his compatriots will flourish in Scotland. “Both boys can play but football is unpredictable and many good players find it hard to adapt at a new team,” he said. “A lot depends on how they adapt to a new place and the tactics of the team, but I don’t see any reason why they cannot play well in Hibernian. It will be good for the two guys to have each other there if Vykintas decides to sign. That will help them adapt faster. They are both good guys. They are team players, no question about that.”