Hibs boss Alan Stubbs today revealed he feared his bid to bring Otso Virtanen to Easter Road was about to end in failure despite having been on the Finnish Under-21 goalkeeper’s trail for a number of weeks.
The Capital club had faced competition from Germany for the 6ft 5in stopper and Stubbs had all but given up hope of making Virtanen his fifth signing this month, having admitted the return of midfielder Kevin Thomson would be his last bit of business in this transfer window.
But events moved quickly, paving the way for Stubbs to snap up Virtanen on a three-and-a-half year deal, believing the 21-year-old has plenty of potential to develop into a top-class goalkeeper.
He said: “It was something that had been going on for a number of weeks. We’d been looking at Otso for a bit, but we were not too sure if we were maybe going to do it. Then one or two things happened quite late on, we had to move quickly and we are delighted to have signed him.
“I was aware there was a bit of interest from other clubs and I thought it was one that was potentially not going to happen, that’s why I’d said a couple of days earlier I didn’t expect to do any more business.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do from when I first came here, to have a young No. 2 we could try to develop while, at the same time, pushing Mark Oxley for the No. 1 place. Hopefully Otso can do that, at his age and with his experience we feel there’s plenty of potential there.”
Finland enjoys a reputation for producing top-classs goalkeepers, most notably former Rangers, Hearts and Charlton No.1 Antti Niemi and Jussi Jaaskelainen with Bolton, West Ham and Wigan, both, of course also stars on the international stage, leading Stubbs to say: “If Otso can be the next one to come along then that would be great, I’m really happy to get his services and hopefully he can slowly build, improve and fulfil his potential.”
Virtanen becomes the third goalkeeper on Hibs’ books with Antonio Reguero, who is out of contract at the end of the season, Oxley’s understudy although he hasn’t yet managed a first-team appearance. Revealing he’s talked the situation over with the 33-year-old Spaniard, Stubbs said: “Tony has been unfortunate. He’s at that age where he will want to be playing but unfortunately opportunities have not really been there for him because of the games we have been involved in and the fact Mark has done so well. Mark is still young as a goalkeeper; he’s still learning but we are happy we have strengthened the competition for places, which is a good thing.”