Israeli international goalkeeper Ofir Marciano claims he has returned to Hibs a far better player thanks to his season on loan at Easter Road.
Protracted negotiations finally resulted in Marciano clinching a four-year deal with the Capital outfit with, it is understood, a fee of around ¤150,000 being agreed with FC Ashdod in his homeland where he had 12 months remaining on his contract.
He becomes boss Neil Lennon’s fourth signing of the summer so far following the earlier arrivals of Danny Swanson, Efe Ambrose and Simon Murray. Marciano, capped 11 times by his country, revealed he had been determined to return to Scotland, describing last season as “an amazing experience”. He said: “It’s not been easy but I am happy that we got it done – finally.”
The 27-year-old admitted he didn’t know what to expect when he first arrived in Edinburgh last summer, his debut delayed for three weeks as the necessary red tape was cleared, but he disclosed both he and his professional model wife Shelly had set their hearts on coming back.
He said: “When I first arrived it was hard. I didn’t really know what Hibs meant but when I played here I saw everything. It was an amazing experience to play in front of the fans every week, a privilege.
“I wanted to become a better player when I came here and I thought I did. That’s the reason I wanted to come back to Hibs to be a better player again.”
Having helped Hibs clinch the Championship title and promotion to the Premiership, Marciano admitted he was looking forward to playing his part in their return to the top flight of Scottish football, adamant he wasn’t going to be drawn into any rash predictions as to what the coming season might hold. He said: “I try not to think too far ahead. I try to focus on preparation to be fit physically and mentally throughout the season. I’m not so sure you want to be top of the table after the first game but we’ll work hard and try to win every game.”
And Marciano admitted he was relishing the early start the Betfred Cup will bring for Hibs with their first match against Montrose a fortnight on Saturday following pre-season friendlies against Dunfermline, Sunderland and Berwick Rangers.
He said: “Every football player wants to play. It’s good to have the vacation, to relax. But I started to feel I wanted to be back playing football. I’ll be working hard in pre-season and throughout what, hopefully, will be a successful season.”
Marciano’s wife recently revealed the couple are expecting their first child, leading him to say: “This is going to be the best thing in my life, I cannot say more than that. I am thankful to God for this gift.”
Lennon will again make Marciano – who expects to negotiate the formality of international clearance within days – his first-choice goalkeeper with Ross Laidlaw, the Israeli’s understudy last season, also back at the club having earlier signed a new two-year contract.
Meanwhile, former Hibs first-team coach Andy Holden has been appointed manager of his hometown club Flint Town United, who play in the Cymru Alliance League in Wales.