Stephane Omeonga can be Hibs’ N’Golo Kante, says head coach Neil Lennon
Hibs boss Neil Lennon believes his latest signing Stephane Omeonga can be Easter Road’s own “N’Golo Kante” and will bring the best out of his fellow midfielders.
The Belgium Under-21 internationalist goes straight into Lennon’s squad for tonight’s Premiership match against Motherwell at Fir Park after signing on loan from Italian Serie A outfit Genoa until the end of the season.
While conceding Omeonga isn’t the biggest, Lennon is convinced his “effervescent” style of play will see the 22-year-old quickly adapt to the Scottish game.
Admitting he was surprised to bring Omeonga to Edinburgh, Lennon revealed he’s already been impressed by what he’s seen at first hand, having closely studied video of him in action.
He said: “Stephane has a good pedigree and the footage we have watched was against the likes of Inter Milan and Juventus. And, although the game might be a bit different in Scotland, they are big, athletic, strong guys.
“We got a good vibe a few weeks ago that he was keen to come and he is still very young and progressing in his career. I think he is a bit like Ryan Gauld, he wants to try new countries, new cultures.
“It takes a lot to get me excited at my age, but we like his qualities and his attitude to the game, his energy. I think he will be a good addition. He doesn’t have the physical presence, but he is omnipresent at times.
“He pops up here and there and you think, ‘where did he come from?’ He handles the ball well, covers the ground well and reads the game. He is always involved and I think he will bring out the best in others like [Stevie] Mallan, [Vykintas] Slivka and [Marvin] Bartley, as will Ryan. They’ll get the creative juices flowing.
“He is a good player and has looked good in training. The British game is different from Serie A and although he has played at a brilliant level, he may take a bit of time to adapt to the physicality of the game here – or he may take to it like a duck to water.
“Looking at him in training he has looked absolutely fine and he knows what is required. He is an intelligent boy and speaks three or four languages and you don’t need to give him too many instructions. He seems to understand what you are asking him to do, which is good. Sometimes you have to tell players three or four times, but he seems to get it straight away, which shows good football intelligence.”
Omeonga has his sights set on breaking into the full Belgian international squad, a great ambition for him to have according to Lennon who, when asked who the youngster reminded him of, replied: “He’s a bit like Kante.
“He gets around the pitch and although he’s diminutive in size, he’s strong and reads the game well. He is really effervescent, he doesn’t stop running and tactically he is very good.”
Lennon insisted he didn’t want to build Omeonga up too much in making comparisons to French World Cup winner Kante, but added: “There are similar attributes there. The kid has a great attitude and work ethic and I like that about him.”