Collins swoops for Chelsea keeper

HIBS boss John Collins today swooped to make his third signing in as many days, snapping up 6ft 5in Chelsea goalkeeper Yves Makabu-Ma-Kalambay on a three-year contract.

The arrival of the Belgian Under-21 star ends Collins' long search to strengthen the goalkeeping department with Ma-Kalambay set to battle it out with Andy McNeill, currently in Canada with Scotland's Under-20 World Cup squad, for the No.1 jersey.

Collins had hoped to sign Ma-Kalambay in January when he arrived for a trial period only to be recalled following a goalkeeping crisis at Stamford Bridge, finding himself thrust into Jose Mourinho's squad for a Champions League match against Barcelona.

Ma-Kalambay, who was born in Brussels to parents from the Democratic Republic of Congo, started his career with Dutch outfit PSV Eindhoven before moving to Chelsea in 2003.

During his four years in London he has been understudy to Petr Cech, Carlo Cudicini and latterly Henrique Hilario. As a 16-year-old, he was on the bench for Chelsea in March 2004 in a 2-0 win over Bolton Wanderers, who he may well face in a pre-season friendly at Easter Road on July 25.

Ma-Kalambay has become Collins' fifth major signing of the season, York City striker Clayton Donaldson and Motherwell midfielder Brian Kerr signing pre-contract agreements before being followed this week by winger Alan O'Brien from Newcastle United and German Under-21 defender Torben Joneleit on loan from Monaco.

Hibs have already agreed compensation, thought to be around 150,000, for Ma-Kalambay, who will arrive in Edinburgh in time to join Collins's squad as they travel to Austria for a nine-day training camp.

Collins said: "We were all very impressed by Yves when he came to Easter Road in January and had hoped he might join us at that point.

"However, Chelsea required him to return as back-up and we had to be patient. Yves is again a young signing for us, but of tremendous potential. He is a good height for a goalkeeper, is very strong and athletic.

"In fact, he has all the attributes you could expect to find in a player in that position.

"It says much for his qualities that he was on the verge of playing in the Champions League, and I have little doubt that had he been called upon to do so he would have done himself justice.

"It is perhaps to our advantage that he did not play in that game; had he done so we might never have had an opportunity to bring him to Easter Road,

"He has benefited from world-class coaching at Chelsea under Silvino Laura but such is the quality of goalkeepers at Chelsea there was little opportunity for first-team football and at this stage in his career that is what Yves is seeking.

"Yves will continue to develop at our club and have every opportunity to reach his full potential and I am confident he will achieve it."

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