Makalambay accuses Hibs of refusing to play him

FREED Hibernian goalkeeper Yves Makalambay has launched an astonishing attack on the Easter Road club, insisting that he was only dropped last season because he refused to sign a new deal and claiming that statistically he was the most effective shot-stopper in the SPL.

The international, who has represented Belgium at Under-23 level and the Democratic Republic of Congo, also suggested that suitors, including his former club Chelsea and an outfit from "the Spanish top three" are among his options as he searches for a new side.

Makalambay, who was signed by John Collins, arrived in Leith in June 2007 with a big reputation, having served as understudy to Petr Cech and Carlo Cudicini as a youngster at Stamford Bridge and had also been included by Jose Mourinho in Champions League squads.

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However, the 6ft 7in tall Makalambay made a series of costly high-profile errors. His concentration and ability to handle cross balls were particularly called into question on several occasions.

His role in a crushing 4-1 against Rangers at Easter Road last season saw him dropped, and since then manager John Hughes signed two more goalkeepers – Graeme Smith and Mark Brown – alongside last summer's recruit Graham Stack.

The number of experienced goalkeepers in the first team squad left Makalambay way down the pecking order, and it was no surprised that he was allowed to leave the club when his contract expired at the end of the season.

However, the defiant 24-year-old claimed yesterday that he had only been snubbed over his refusal to agree fresh terms.

Makalambay said: "The fact that I didn't play last season had nothing to do with my qualities. I started the season as No 1.

"But then I went to the president (chairman, Rod Petrie) to say that I wouldn't sign a new deal and that I wanted to find a new challenge with another team.

"From that moment, I lost my place in the team.

"Before I cam to Hibs, they had the worst defence in the SPL. After my first season, they had the best. I stopped the most shots of all goalkeepers statistics proved."

Now Makalambay is keen to resurrect his career elsewhere, and he even refused to rule out a surprise return to Chelsea.

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"I'm not sure yet where I will go," said Makalambay. "I've received some offers from clubs in England and France and from a big Spanish club – from the Spanish top three – that was a big surprise to me.

"But I want to play for a club where I'm number one. Everybody still sees me as the young talented goalkeeper from Chelsea, but now I'm 24, I've got the experience from the games with Hibs.

"It's an important point in my career. I know for example that people at Chelsea are still following me."

At Hearts meanwhile, majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov yesterday dropped a strong hint that he will reject offers for Andrew Driver from Chelsea and other English and Dutch clubs.

The winger was called to Lithuania earlier this week by the Hearts owner to discuss his future amid speculation that the tycoon was about to cash in on the club's main asset.

But yesterday Romanov stressed: "I think Andy Driver is still needed at Hearts as he has not yet reached his peak."

The statement came after the owner met Driver at the Kaunas headquarters of his business empire.

"It was unclear if this means a 'no' to any deal this summer or if Romanov is pushing clubs seeking Driver to improve their offers.

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While Romanov and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich do not know each other well, they have discussed a deal on Driver, believed to involve a year's loan.

Other interested clubs who are monitoring the situation are said to be Wigan Athletic, Burnley, Middlesbrough and FC Twente.

The 22-year-old player is contracted to Hearts until 2013.

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