Benjelloun bullish about Euro hopes but doubts remain over his future

ABDESSALAM Benjelloun is increasingly upbeat about Hibernian's chances of playing in Europe next season – but is unsure if he will still be with the club then.

The Moroccan striker, who came off the bench to score the equaliser from the penalty spot against Aberdeen on Wednesday night, is out of contract at the end of the season. He said after that 2-2 draw that he is happy at Easter Road and wants to stay, but admitted he had not had any talks yet with the club about an extension.

"My contract ends in June," said the 25-year-old. "I never said I want to leave Hibs. I like this club. I have only one club in my heart – Hibernian."

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"So far nothing," he continued when asked if anyone at the club had spoken to him about staying. "But I've always said I'm very happy here. So if I'm here or even if I'm not here, I hope the best for the club to play in Europe. Also if I move to another club or stay here, I will support Hibs."

Benjelloun, who made his debut for Hibs in the 2006 Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Hearts, spent last season on loan in Belgium, first to Charleroi and then to Roeselare. He returned to Easter Road for the start of this season, with manager John Hughes saying he had a future with the club, but he has found it hard to claim a starting place.

The loan signing of Alan Gow last month has meant even more competition for places up front, but Benjelloun accepts that is best for the club. "It's no problem now because the manager has a lot of choice and we have to fight to win a place to play.

"I want always the best for the team and for myself. If tomorrow we bring Rooney and Ronaldo I will be very happy.

"Of course I want more than 20 minutes. I can do better with half an hour, or 45 minutes, or one game. But it's the manager's choice, so I have to respect that. For me it's important we finish the season second or third and play in the Europa League or Champions League next year."

If it is going to be the latter competition, Benjelloun thinks his team, having dropped two points against Aberdeen, must take at least one from Ibrox on Sunday. "We have a game in hand now (on second-placed Celtic]," he said.

"We have to take something from the Rangers game – a minimum of one point, because we lost two. If we play our football, like we did maybe two months ago, we can get three points from Ibrox. I think we have a lot of chances to finish this year second or third. We're looking for second, but third is very good for the club."

Benjelloun kept his nerve well to score from the spot not long after coming on, and said that as he had been the regular penalty-taker before, his team-mates had been happy to let him continue in the role. But he perhaps revealed too much when he explained the positioning of team-mates Merouane Zemmama, Anthony Stokes and Colin Nish was designed to deal with a rebound.

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"Zemmama and Stokesy asked me where I was going to shoot – that's why I put them to the right. And I put Nishy here (indicating to the left]."

He did indeed shoot to the right. Goalkeepers can now consider themselves forewarned.