Leishman believes Bamba can use World Cup finals as a springboard

THE man responsible for introducing Sol Bamba to Scottish football believes the Hibs defender could win a big-money move to another club this summer if he turns in a positive performance for the Ivory Coast at the World Cup.

Jim Leishman signed Bamba for Dunfermline after watching him tame John Hartson in a pre-season friendly with West Brom in 2006.

He then went on to help the former Paris St Germain stopper broker the move to Easter Road two years ago that helped the 25-year-old make his international breakthrough with Les Elephants.

Bamba was last week included in Sven-Goran Eriksson's final 23-man squad for South Africa and will be hoping to secure a starting place for his country's mouthwatering Group G clashes with Brazil, Portugal and North Korea.

Leishman, who has admitted he knew nothing of the athletic stopper when he agreed to hand him a trial at East End Park, believes the finals could help Bamba land the transfer he craves.

With the stopper having been linked with interest from PSG, Fulham and even Liverpool, he said: "Playing in the World Cup, at the highest level with some big players and against some big players, should set him on the road.

"He wants to move on at some point, but not because he dislikes Hibs, he likes Hibs and he's enjoyed it there.

"But every player wants to play at the highest level they can, don't they? He's nothing against Hibs, he's having a great time there, but the World Cup, these are the places you can prove how good you are.

"He's certainly got the physique and he's got the potential to do it. But potential sometimes passes you by, it's all about going out and doing it. He's a great runner, he's as strong as an ox, and he's a strong tackler. He's also a lovely big lad and good luck to him, that's what I say."

Leishman has revealed he was actually tracking another French player four years ago but when that move fell through he was glad to take a chance on Bamba.

He added: "I was going to sign another lad from France and I was dealing with his agent but his girlfriend took ill and so it fell through.

"But the agent said 'I've got another laddie'. This big boy arrived, with his big stupid smile, and when he walked in the door I thought 'Christ, he's massive'.

"We played him as a trialist against West Brom and he hadn't trained or anything, but he played against John Hartson and was magnificent, he was brilliant.

"We didn't know anything about him when he arrived but we looked at what he could do and he did very well. We decided to take a chance and he was a good player for Dunfermline.

"I knew from day one that he had the potential."