What does Ryan Gauld do now his loan spell at Hibs is over?
The Scottish midfielder made his long-awaited return to the country in January when the Hibees signed him on a six-month loan.
At the time, Neil Lennon’s side were in real need of midfield reinforcements as well as a creative spark in the final third.
And they hoped Gauld would be able to provide that considering his breakthrough at Dundee United and the five years he’s spent in Portugal with Sporting Lisbon.
Unfortunately for all involved, Gauld managed just six appearances for Hibs, spending the majority of his spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.
Now Gauld’s loan deal at Easter Road has ended and he’ll return to Portugal to start next season with Sporting.
But what does the future hold for him?Embed from Getty Images
Gauld signed a six-year contract with Sporting back in 2014 so is moving into the final year of that deal. That will ensure he is contracted somewhere next season, but it looks very unlikely he’ll be in their team.
In six years, Gauld has made just five first team appearances and those all came in the 2014/15 campaign.
Since then, he’s not had a look-in under Jorge Jesus, Jose Peseiro or Marcel Keizer – and the task of making an impact is even harder when you see midfield talent like Bruno Fernandes, Nemanja Gudelj and Wendel in their squad.
You have to assume Gauld will either leave on loan or permanently then.
He’s already had loans away from Sporting with Vitoria de Setubal, Aves, Farense and now Hibs – but he only managed regular football with Aves in the 2017/18 season and struggled in the rest.
That is through no fault of his own though, with injuries and club politics impacting the amount of playing time he’s got.
And at 23, he still represents a midfield talent that could really improve a team if he gets the right club with a manager that believes in him.
Could a return to Hibs interest? Possibly, if the money is right. Paul Heckingbottom’s squad has been impacted by a lot of movement this summer and the former Dundee United midfielder could really improve them if fit.Embed from Getty Images
Hibs fans should remember the strong impact he made initially after joining and think about what could have been had he been fit.
Alternatively, maybe Aberdeen could be a landing spot for Gauld if they can make a move for him happen. Derek McInnes has previous for giving players like Gauld another opportunity in Scotland. Look at Stevie May, Greg Stewart, Gary Mackay-Steven and Mark Reynolds for example – all had spells with other Scottish teams first and either struggled elsewhere or moved directly to Aberdeen to make an impact on the team.
And Gauld has been linked with Aberdeen before. That’s significant on top of the fact he hails from Laurencekirk (just 40 miles from Pittodrie) and may see the appeal in returning home after so much time spent abroad.
No matter what, it’s a pivotal time for a man who was once hyped as the next generation of Scottish football.