Darren McGregor knows Efe Ambrose will be sorely missed – but claimed Hibs can cope without him.
Ambrose decided to invoke a clause in the two-year contract he had signed with the Easter Road club allowing him to leave six months early.
But, insisted his fellow defender McGregor, while no-one likes to talk money, the 30-year-old Nigerian internationalist couldn’t be blamed for seeking richer rewards elsewhere.
He said: “The Hibs fans will hate it, but any team in Scotland, if someone is doing well, a bigger side will snap them up. It happens for Celtic as well.
“There’s only a couple of clubs in the world who are not selling clubs.
“If you are being honest, you have to understand the allure of offers from elsewhere. People don’t like to talk about that, but that’s what it boils down to. The financial element would have had a big part to play. He could get weighed up for a couple of years and you can’t knock that.”
Instead, McGregor believes Hibs fans should remember the sheer entertainment Ambrose provided them with, having initially joined the club on loan from Celtic where he had found himself something of an outcast.
McGregor said: “If you look at Efe, he joined us as a good player. He wasn’t plucked from nowhere.
“He was known as a ‘ten’ or the other end of the scale, but he figured it out at Hibs and was exceptional.
“You look at him and try to think of a defender in Scotland who did what he could do and there was none.
“He was an African Nations Cup winner, played in the Champions League knockout stages, could break lines and start counter attacks from our last third of the pitch.
“It can work for and against you, but it worked for us. He’ll be sorely missed, he was a great athlete who trained every day.
“We were dealing with a great player and it was terrific for the fans to see him at full tilt.
“Of course he’ll be missed. But for two years, we had him and he helped us get promoted and finish fourth in the Premiership and into Europe.”
It remains to be seen if Hibs head coach Neil Lennon, who has made adding firepower to his squad a top priority, will now move to find a replacement for Ambrose, but McGregor believes that as things stand already, the capital club can cope.
He said: “It’s a big chance for guys like myself. We have Ryan (Porteous), Paul (Hanlon) and I’d say it’s one of the strongest areas of our team.
“We’ll miss him, but Mark Milligan (pictured) has also played centre-back for Australia, so there is adequate cover.”