BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
DEIVYDAS MATULEVICIUS has joked that his dream move to Hibs has cost him the friendship of Marius Zaliukas after the former Hearts captain told him to get ready for war in Edinburgh.
The 28-year-old is close pals with Zaliukas from their time together with the national team and the experienced defender, who also turned out for Rangers, wasted no time in dishing out an ear-bashing after learning of the striker’s switch to Easter Road.
While Zaliukas – who skippered the Jambos to their famous 5-1 Scottish Cup final demolition over Hibs in 2012 – was quick to sell him on the virtues of Scottish football, Matulevicius was left in no doubt that he has chosen the wrong side of the capital divide.
Indeed, with a swathe of his mates formerly on the books at Tynecastle, the 33-times capped front-man concedes that he has just become much less popular.
He smiled: “On Thursday morning, Marius Zaliukas called me and told me that I had signed for the wrong club! I am really good pal of Marius but he told me that we were not friends anymore – it’s that serious.
“I know he was joking, and he told me that Hibs was a very good choice of club for me because they are a big name in Scottish football and they have a big history.
“Of course, I know all of the Lithuanian players that were at Hearts. Arvydas Novikovas, Deividas Cesnauskis, Saulius Mikoliunas; they are all good friends who I speak to a lot – so I have a lost a lot of friends now.
“They are all saying that they won’t speak to me, so I can tell this rivalry is big.
“I have told all those former Hearts players that when I play against their old club, Hibs will kill them and Marius has told me that those games are like a war.”
Evidently, then, Matulevicius is not one to shirk a battle. Standing at a hulking 6ft3ins, he could make his debut against Alloa tomorrow after international clearance was finally received for his move from Belgian side Royal Mouscron.
And he is adamant he will fulfil a lifelong dream by playing on these shores, continuing: “It is a good league for players to come to and the style suits me. I am big, physical striker and there is a lot of fight in the Scottish game.
“I like to get involved in the rough and tumble in and around the box.
“I have been watching Scottish football for a few years now, I have always wanted to come to a place like this to play. When I was young it was my dream to play football in a country like Scotland.”
Matulevicius hopes the move will further cement his international standing, with Lithuania manager Edgaras Jankauskas another former Hearts player.
Given Hibs also snapped up Vykintas Slivka from Juventus on a three-year deal this week, the national boss seems likely to be returning to Edinburgh this term.
Ironically, Scotland travel to face Lithuania in their next World Cup qualifier in September.
He added: “I know that if I do well here, I can impress the manager and possibly get into the Lithuanian first team. I did not play at Hampden but I hope to play in the next game.
“He will also want to watch Vykintas [Slivka], who is a really good, strong technical player. He is an ex-Juventus player which is not an easy place to go to play football and he will certainly help the team a lot.”