Ryan Porteous transfer: Hibs admit defender “likely” to leave this month; three European clubs in race; Udinese and Watford in driving seat
The Hibs and Scotland defender, who is out of contract this summer but could be sold this month, has been linked with two unnamed clubs in the German Bundesliga and now Belgian top-flight strugglers Oostende. Millwall, Hull City, Sunderland, Stoke City and Watford are among the English clubs thought to be interested in the 23-year-old centre-half, but if a deal is to be done before the end of the January transfer window Udinese remain the front-runners.
Kensell told Hibs TV: “Ryan is likely to leave in this window. There are two, three, several options that Ryan could choose from. Ultimately that will come down to Ryan. Ultimately we are looking to extract the best deal possibvle for the club, whilst also making it the best deal possible for Ryan.”
Currently eighth in Serie A, Udinese initially contacted Hibs in December and renewed talks this week with a view to agreeing a cut-price transfer. It has been suggested by the Mirror that Porteous could even be bought by Udinese and loaned immediately to Watford in the Championship. Both clubs are owned by the Pozzo family and have done similar deals in the past.
Watford boss Slaven Bilic has had a number of injuries to contend with since his appointment earlier in the season and is looking to add depth to his squad this month. Porteous would be an ideal replacement for Kortney Hause if the Aston Villa defender, currently on loan at Watford, is recalled by his parent club.
Porteous has made clear his intention to leave Hibs for a new challenge to further his development. He is free to talk to clubs now and sign a pre-contract, but it is looking increasingly likely that he will leave during the January transfer window and land Hibs a small fee. Speaking earlier this month, Hibs manager Lee Johnson conceded a January sale “would be the best idea if we realise the fee”.
Porteous returned to the Hibs team from suspension and was outstanding in Sunday’s 3-2 victory over Motherwell at Fir Park. Johnson said afterwards: “I’m not sure about Ryan’s situation. I’m just trying to focus on the games while [chief executive] Ben Kensell and [head of recruitment] Ian Gordon work away in the background. I’m obviously a part of it and add valued opinion. Ryan is a quality player, simple as that.”
Since making his Hibs debut in July 2017, Porteous has gone on to make more than 150 appearances, scoring 13 goals, for the club. He made his Scotland debut in the Nations League draw against Ukraine in September and revealed last month that he is pursuing a move outwith Scotland.
He told Sky Sports: “I do like the idea of moving to a different league and testing myself there. I think there's a lot of boys that have left Scottish football that have went down and flourished, whether that be down south or abroad. I'm open to ideas and now it's trying to figure out the one that's best suited for me.”
With a transfer this month still likely, Hibs are expected to be in the market for an immediate replacement. Rocky Bushiri and Paul Hanlon are the only other experienced centre-backs in the squad, backed up by on-loan Manchester United teenager Will Fish. Jack Brydon and Emmanuel Johnson have been recalled after spending the first half of the season at Edinburgh, but Kyle McClelland remains on loan at Cove Rangers.