Should Hibs stick, twist or cash in on star attacker in summer rebuild?

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Gray and Mackay clearly open to offers for in-demand wide player

That Hibs are eager to cash in on Elie Youan is obvious to anyone who has followed the workings of football’s transfer market with even a moderate degree of care and attention. As any club in their circumstances might do, the Easter Road outfit are trying to parlay interest in the French winger into the sort of bumper transfer fee that few Scottish teams could reject.

If they can also get a bidding war going by playing interested parties off one another, well, that’ll suit Hibs just fine. Do I hear £2.75 million from the Italian club at the back of the room? Going once, going twice …

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As things stand, the Hibs hierarchy believe they can get in excess of the reported £2.5 million offer already on the table from an unnamed French club. Reported interest from Italy doesn’t hurt their cause.

But why the rush to offload a player who, while still raw, brings such an obvious degree of menace to the attack? Is it all about economics? Or are there football reasons for letting the 25-year-old leave, as long as the money is right?

As Hibs continue to trim a bloated squad while looking to add quality in key areas, let’s take a look at the Youan situation. And figure out whether Malky Mackay, David Gray and the other decision makers at East Mains are smarter to stick or twist.

He’s no dud

Youan certainly doesn’t fall into the category of players who are clearly and definitely surplus to requirements. You can’t compare him to a Riley Harbottle or Nohan Kenneh, to name just two recent failures of a recruitment strategy that has cost Hibs dearly in terms of fees, wages and severance packages needed to off-load unwanted deadwood.

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In terms of what he produced for the team last season, a difficult campaign for most players, he was certainly comparable to the likes of Martin Boyle. The two quickfire goals at Tynecastle were obviously a highlight. But Youan hit double figures with assists – and was credited with less direct involvement in plenty of goals for his team.

Hibs' Elie Youan sparks bedlam in the away end after scoring his equaliser against Hearts in last season’s 2-2 draw at Tynecastle.Hibs' Elie Youan sparks bedlam in the away end after scoring his equaliser against Hearts in last season’s 2-2 draw at Tynecastle.
Hibs' Elie Youan sparks bedlam in the away end after scoring his equaliser against Hearts in last season’s 2-2 draw at Tynecastle.

If Hibs lose Youan, for however much money, he will leave a gap in the squad. Then we’re into considering Boyle’s future – or asking whether Jair Tavares is capable of stepping up.

What’s his ceiling?

There’s always a chance that this is as good as Youan is going to get. That he’s already peaked. Or, more accurately, that he’s never going to flourish in the madness of the Scottish Premiership.

There’s no denying that his lack of defensive discipline – part of wider positional issues – became a recurring problem during Nick Montgomery’s time as manager. If you were close enough to the technical area during any given game, you’d hear any number of Monty’s coaching staff bellowing ‘Elie! Elie! Elie!’ repeatedly during play. He takes a bit of guidance, then.

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All about the money

It’s hard to imagine many Hibs fans complaining about their club taking somewhere north of £2.5 million – even if that headline figure will inevitably include add-ons – for a player who wasn’t always a first choice starter in the second half of last season. Compare Youan’s overall performances to that of on-loan players like Myziane Maolida and Emi Marcondes, and you’ll recognise that he wasn’t quite on the same level.

The issue for supporters may be in how the profit made on Youan, who cost Hibs a “high six-figure fee” when they triggered their right-to-buy option on the on-loan St Gallen forward last summer, is reinvested. They’ll want to see every penny spent on players, of course. But they’ll also be looking for a better strike rate from a talent ID department with a patchy record, to say the least.

With Boyle’s future also cast into some doubt by his own comments and those of senior figures at Perth Glory, Hibs could kick off the new season – less than three weeks from now, away to Elgin City in the Premier Sports Cup – without their two main wide men from last season. As they pursue at least two central defenders, a goalkeeper and a striker, they find themselves in something of a conundrum. Well aware that Youan might prove valuable if they keep him around. But knowing that the price he might fetch, should market conditions align, will enable them to play a stronger hand in recruiting top talent.