Hibs’ prospects of signing Jamie Maclaren on a permanent basis will become significantly enhanced over the next few weeks in the highly possible event that the on-loan striker’s parent club are relegated to Germany’s third tier.
The Australian is contracted to Bundesliga 2 side Darmstadt 98 until summer 2020 and is currently scheduled to return there when his short-term loan at Easter Road expires at the end of the season. However, Maclaren has a clause in his deal which means he will automatically become a free agent if they are demoted to Germany’s 3.Liga. That scenario looks more likely than not, with Darmstadt second bottom of the league, three points adrift of a relegation play-off and four points away from outright safety with just three games remaining. They play their final match of the regulation season on May 13 – the same day Hibs’ campaign concludes – meaning there could be an earlier-than-anticipated opportunity for the Easter Road club to try and secure the services of a player who has made a positive impact since arriving in Edinburgh three months ago.
Bidding to win a place in the Australia squad for the upcoming World Cup in Russia, Maclaren has scored four times – including goals against Rangers, Hearts and Celtic – and his partnership with fellow loanee Florian Kamberi has been deemed key to Hibs’ improved form since the winter break.
The player has no desire to return to Darmstadt after he was left disillusioned with the way his first six months in Germany went following his move there from Brisbane Roar last summer. He is open to making his move to Hibs permanent and his representative is due in Edinburgh this weekend to take in the match against Kilmarnock and hold informal talks with Hibs management to establish the lie of the land.
As things stand, however, the ball remains in Darmstadt’s court. The German club started the season with aspirations of winning promotion to the Bundesliga, but they have endured a disastrous campaign, which included a managerial change just before Maclaren left for Hibs. It remains to be seen what their stance will be regarding the 24-year-old if they manage to avoid relegation. President Rüdiger Fritsch told the Evening News: “Last winter, we made the decision – together with Jamie and his agent – to give him the opportunity for a loan spell at a club where he would play regularly, which would in turn allow him a better chance to compete for a spot in the Socceroos World Cup 2018 squad.
“We attentively follow his matches for Hibernian and consider the objectives of the loan achieved, since he plays regularly and has already scored four goals. First of all, we hope that his biggest goal to play in the World Cup can be reached. After the season, we will figure out the next steps.”