How a mad dash in Dubai taxi put Hibs in driving seat to land star forward

Monty's first two signings revved up and ready for Rangers
Marcondes braves tail end of Storm Isha at East Mains.Marcondes braves tail end of Storm Isha at East Mains.
Marcondes braves tail end of Storm Isha at East Mains.

From a chance meeting in the blazing heat of Dubai, to the horizontal sleet and howling gales of East Lothian, the first stages of Emiliano Marcondes’ Hibernian adventure certainly haven’t lacked for variety. But there’s a shared set of values underpinning both elements of the story. A work ethic that was evident even before Nick Montgomery sat down to persuade the Danish forward that he should spend the next half season rediscovering his mojo in the Scottish Premiership.

Montgomery revealed yesterday that he made his pitch for Marcondes after discovering that the Bournemouth forward had travelled to Dubai – where Hibs were on their own winter training break – in the company of free agent Jesse Lingard and a number of other big names for some high-intensity training aimed at regaining or maintaining match sharpness. That was a sign, according to Monty, that he’d found someone not content merely to collect his wages for the last six months of his Premier League contract.

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So when Monty saw the free-kick specialist staying after training to work on set pieces yesterday, at a sodden training ground where the approach road was littered with fallen trees? It didn’t take the gaffer by surprise.

Explaining the backstory to landing Marcondes, the former Sheffield United midfielder said a call from an old team-mate had alerted him to the possibility of a deal being done, Montgomery adding: “We got on the front foot, got a taxi through the crazy traffic in Dubai! We sat and had a coffee and talked about life and football. Then we gave him the opportunity to really look into the club. He had other options.

“It was really important that we made the most of that meeting, which came by chance. It was an opportunity to go and meet him, which I did.

“He was out there training on his own with some big-name players, some Premier League players. Instead of being on a break, they were out their training and that speaks volumes to the sort of person he is. Jesse Lingard was one of them.

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“I would say that being able to have that meeting was powerful. When you can look someone in the eye, you can have an honest conversation and you can create a relationship. I told him we could help him get back playing competitively and he can help us.

“He was really excited by the project. He took a bit of time to think about it, which I think is important; he did his research on the club and he could see it has a lot of history and that played a part in him wanting to come.

“The biggest thing for me is that he is hungry to get playing. He is not coming here to mess around, he is coming to get training, get involved with the team and help Hibs and me finish as high in the league as we can. He knows it’s a challenge, he knows we have a really young team, and he knows the situation we are in right now with a lot of players away or injured.

“It would have been easy for him to say that it was not the right challenge for him - but he really wanted to take on that challenge. That’s a real leader as well. For me, to bring him in isn’t just good for Hibs but for the Scottish League because he is a quality player.”

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Explaining how the professionalism of Marcondes had already shone through, Montgomery revealed: “You see the weather today. But he and Elie Youan and myself were out there taking free kicks and doing a bit of shooting.

“The rain was lashing down and the wind was blowing sideways; we have lost a bit of equipment this week with the crazy winds. But you can see straight away that he is a top, top professional who does everything. Those sort of players inspire the young players here.”

A free-kick specialist, Marcondes actually runs his own set-piece school. All added value, in the yes of the Hibs coaching staff.

“I think we can use that here, for sure,” said Montgomery. “He’s had his own free-kick coach in his career and you can see the technique he uses, just in the few he’s taken today, so you try to utilise that sort of thing. 

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“I’m sure that he’s the type of player who would be happy to stand outside, even in the lashing rain we had today, with the young boys and take free-kicks. Then, when it comes to the games, he can step up and deliver in those big moments.”

Montgomery says Hibs fans are likely to see both Marcondes and fellow new signing Myziane Maolida play some part against Rangers at Easter Road tomorrow night, depending on clearance for the Comoros international arriving in time.

“I’m not going to rule both out from starting,” he teased, adding: “But they’ll definitely be involved.

“We’ve got a lot of games coming up, so they need time to bed in, get used to the intensity we play at, the formation we play, the style we play. They’ve both spent a lot of time watching video, and I think they’ve already got a good understanding of what we want. 

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“You can see even in a couple of training sessions with the boys here that they understand. I’m really looking forward to seeing them play. 

“The two players I’ve brought in could be potential match winners in those tight games. That’s the plan.”

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