Florian Kamberi eyes Hibs stay as he hits out at Grasshoppers
The 23-year-old has been a revelation since arriving on loan from the Swiss Superleague outfit in January, notching six goals in eight games and cultivating a superb partnership with Australia internationalist Jamie Maclaren in attack.
After Kamberi’s hat-trick against Hamilton on Tuesday night saw the capital club move to within one point of third-placed Rangers, Hibs head coach Neil Lennon lavished praise on the rangy forward and revealed that there is an option to buy the player at the end of the season.
While Kamberi is an old head on young shoulders and not inclined to look too far ahead, there is little doubt he would be amenable to a longer stay in Edinburgh after falling out of favour at Grasshoppers and inexplicably, he contends, being frozen out of the first-team picture.
He has found a home in the Scottish capital and, in Lennon, has found a manager willing to show faith in his ability. Asked whether he would be open to a permanent move, Kamberi, who is contracted to Grasshoppers until the summer of 2019, said: “Of course, I am happy here. Grasshoppers did things with me that I don’t understand and that were disrespectful.
“They didn’t let me play in friendly matches, they didn’t tell me why I was not playing. Even if you don’t plan to use a player, you should tell them to their face. I trained very well and hard and there was no reason ever given to me.
“That has made me mentally stronger. I worked hard, did a lot of training by myself because I was not playing, and when I came to Hibs, Neil Lennon gave me a chance. That was a signal that he wants me and would give me trust.
“I feel that trust in every single match and I will try to repay that with good performances and goals.
“You feel the manager’s presence when you are on the pitch. He gives you a feeling that you are the best on the pitch and for me, that’s important. I hear him all the time – he’s calling ‘well done Flo’ and I like that. His presence and his personality show that he’s a winner and I am also a winner. It’s perfect.”
Kamberi’s desire to return to Hibs next term will only be enhanced if Lennon’s charges can continue their blistering recent form and ensure a return to European football. He describes that prospect as “a dream”.
Hibs, who face Ross County in their final game prior to the split, are just one point behind Rangers and four adrift of Aberdeen and, with a penchant for raising their game against the SPFL’s big guns, are firmly in the race to be crowned best of the rest.
“We are very confident,” said Kamberi when the idea of finishing second was broached. “We are only one point behind Rangers and four behind Aberdeen. We have to play them both again, so everything is possible.
“We have to beat Ross County first and then after the break we will be ready for the split.
“To play in Europe would be a dream for me. Every child wants to play at the highest level and I think we have a very good chance to get into Europe next year.”
In walking away with the match ball against Hamilton, Kamberi became the first Hibs player to score a hat-trick in the top flight since Colin Nish achieved that feat in the famous 6-6 draw against Motherwell at Fir Park in 2010.
It was not Kamberi’s first treble, however. He scored the eighth, ninth and tenth goals in a 10-0 win over fifth division minnows CS Romontois in the Swiss Cup last August. Suffice to say his exploits against Accies will live longer in the memory.
“I scored three goals in three minutes in that cup game but that was against a very small team,” he said with a smile. “That was not the same, Tuesday night was bigger and much more important, as Aberdeen also won.
“I’m not going to go crazy now, I will be the same person as I was before the match – someone who works hard. So, on Thursday we will be back in training to focus on a successful season with the team. We are in a good position and we need to keep moving forward like this.”