Should Hibs cash in on their talisman while they still can?

Boyle (right) and Elie Youan celebrate the Socceroos star's goal against Luzern in the UEFA Conference League.Boyle (right) and Elie Youan celebrate the Socceroos star's goal against Luzern in the UEFA Conference League.
Boyle (right) and Elie Youan celebrate the Socceroos star's goal against Luzern in the UEFA Conference League. | SNS Group
The case for and against off-loading prize asset now

He didn’t exactly slam the door shut, did he? Martin Boyle’s open and honest expression of interest in a move to the A-League, at some unspecified time in the future, will have immediately set hares running at clubs already interested in acquiring a bona fide Socceroos star.

The Hibs favourite holds obvious box office appeal in his ‘home’ country. And Boyle’s interview with Aussie media this week, filled with the usual caveats about being under contract in Edinburgh, became news when he admitted: “Obviously, it's an aim of mine to play in the A-League for sure. When that will happen, I'm not really sure, so we'll just see what the future holds."

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This leads us, then, to pose a simple question. If one of the A-League teams regularly credited with an interest in Boyle could whip up a semi-respectable transfer fee, would it make sense for Hibs to cash in on their talisman now? That’s a tough call.

So let’s break it down. Take emotion out of the equation. And weigh up both sides of a hypothetical argument that may soon become real enough for everyone involved.

The case for cashing in

The original story linking Boyle to both Melbourne City and Perth Glory was so shot full of holes, not least the 100 per cent incorrect assertion that the 31-year-old would be out of contract this summer, that few paid it any attention. Hibs certainly didn’t encourage the idea of the fan favourite moving on.

But the fact that Boyle will be able to sign pre-contract agreements with any club from January, meaning he could move on for nothing at the end of the season, would add appeal to even a relatively modest transfer fee. Especially at a time when Hibs need cash to fund a massive squad rebuild.

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If the right money at the wrong time would make business sense, what about selling Boyle as a football decision? Is there any merit in that?

It’s tough to judge the guy on last season alone, given the issues – a knee injury, a month spent at the Asian Cup with the Socceroos AND a devastating concussion that left him unable to get out of bed for a spell – that prevented him from building any momentum. Throw in the need to play out of position as a traditional striker, when Hibs were short of bodies, and you can understand why his numbers were down.

The fact that he only scored five Scottish Premiership goals, also producing three assists in 28 league starts, reflects on his diminishing influence in a calamitous campaign that saw Hibs miss out on a top-six finish. In terms of basic production and ability to win games, Boyle found himself completely overshadowed by the January arrival of Myziane Maolida.

While Maolida’s departure at the end of his short-term loan leaves a gap for Boyle to become the main man again, the former Dundee attacker finished the season looking like just another decent outlet. And those guys always have a price.

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Assuming Hibs cannot pull a second stroke on a par with Boyle’s boomerang move to Saudi club Al-Faisaly, which netted the Easter Road side over £1 million for a transfer that ended up looking very much like a six-month loan, there still might be a deal that brings them to the table. Especially if the player himself is trailing his availability and willingness to entertain a move.

On the other hand ...

Are you nuts? Whatever the stats say, Boyle is a proven performer in the Scottish Premiership. An experienced player who can be trusted to put in a shift and torment defenders. You don’t throw those guys away without having a replacement ready to step straight in.

As a senior international footballer, the wide man with the cheeky chappy image also brings a lot of game intelligence to a team who can’t always be trusted to do the right thing. He may not be exactly what he once was, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make important contributions to the team, especially when it comes to creating chances – not a quality to be taken for granted.

Then there’s the question of morale. Among supporters and, yes, team-mates. As much as everyone may laugh at Boyle’s reputation for antics and japes, his livewire personality is really useful for maintaining spirits. Especially at a club where frequent changes in management leave little room for continuity.

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And, finally, if Boyle goes, who takes his place? With Elie Youan the subject of serious and sustained interest from France, Hibs aren’t exactly overflowing with wingers/forwards guaranteed to start the new season. That must be a factor.

And the final verdict?

Well, there has to be an offer on the table first. But that seems more likely today than it did a few weeks ago.

It would certainly be a bold step, in many ways, were Hibs to cash in on Boyle and – this is the crucial bit – reinvest accordingly, using some of the fee to fund a bid for a young, hungry, all-action winger capable of unlocking opposition defences. If the stars align to make that a possibility, don’t bet against new sporting director Malky Mackay and gaffer David Gray deciding on just such a course of action.