New Hibs signing Otso Virtanen targets first team

Otso Virtanen has represented Finland at Under-21 level
Otso Virtanen has represented Finland at Under-21 level
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Finnish goalkeeper Otso Virtanen has admitted he’s taken a “big jump” at the age of 21 to make the move to Hibs, but insisted he’s made the right decision.

Virtanen became Hibs boss Alan Stubbs’ fifth signing of the January transfer window, agreeing a three-and-a-half year deal and immediately insisting his objective is to force his way into the first team “as soon as possible”.

After bringing Chris Dagnall, Niklas Gunnarsson, Anthony Stokes and Kevin Thomson to Easter Road, Stubbs sprang another surprise by snapping up Virtanen, a free agent who has played for Finland’s Under-21 side.

At 6ft 5in, Virtanen played for IFK Mariehamn in the Finnish top league The Veikaus but he revealed he feels the time is right for him to move abroad.

He said: “My ambition, my goal is to get games here as soon as possible but I am not in a rush, I am still young. It’s quite a big jump at such a young age both as a football player and as a person but Scotland is quite similar to Finland so I think the jump is not so big.

“I’m looking forward to playing in Scotland. I have had a couple of days to look around the club and I know there have been Finnish players here in the past.”

The most notable of them was striker Mixu Paatelainen, now boss of Dundee United, and Virtanen said: “I have talked with him a couple of times. I don’t know him so well, but he seems a really nice guy.”

Virtanen revealed there were other clubs interested in signing him but believes joining Hibs is the right decision as far as he is concerned, saying: “It was difficult because IFK are a great club but I thought this was my turn to go forward.”

Stubbs was delighted with his latest acquisition, saying: “Otso is someone we have been tracking for a while. He is a keeper with lot of potential that we are looking forward to developing. I am sure he will be another positive addition to the first-team squad.”

Meanwhile, Stubbs has told Dominique Malonga he wants him to stay at Easter Road after Italian Serie B side Pro Vercilli revealed they are on the striker’s trail.

Malonga, 27, is out of contact at the end of the season but, Stubbs insisted that, while he’s aware of interest from Italy where the Paris-born striker has previously played with Torino, Foggia, Cesena and Vicenza, there’s been no official contact.

The Hibs head coach said: “We are aware of that interest, but there’s nothing really to report. We’d like Dom to stay. I have said all along we do not want anyone leaving.”

However, Stubbs was adamant Malonga, who scored 16 goals in his first season with the club, has not expressed any desire to leave but accepted competition for places at Easter Road is exceptionally tough with on-loan Celtic hitman Anthony Stokes marking his return to Edinburgh with Hibs’ final goal in their 3-1 win over St Mirren on Saturday.

Malonga, who had scored three goals in his previous five games, was among the substitutes against the Buddies as another new signing, Chris Dagnall, partnered top scorer Jason Cummings up front. While Stubbs turned to subs Stokes and James Keatings during the match, Malonga was left sitting on the bench. Stubbs said: “Dom has not indicated he wants to leave. We have had a chat and he knows I want him to stay. Competition for places is strong but I want him to get his head down and fight for his place. I’ve told him he will get opportunities.”