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Football: Lovell leaves Hibees.

Byline: ROBERT MARTIN

Hibs midfielder Stuart Lovell has followed Dirk Lehmann out of Easter Road after failing to agree terms on a new contract.

Manager Alex McLeish admitted the Capital club had withdrawn their offer of a new deal to the Aussie international, who is now free to sign for another side.

McLeish and Lovell clashed after the player was dropped for the Tennent's Scottish Cup final, which Hibs lost to Celtic 3-0.

The player exclusively told Mirror Sport that he had been left out because McLeish thought the Hoops would play winger Bobby Petta.

That drew an angry response from McLeish, who felt that the player was wrong to reveal a private conversation.

But the Hibs boss yesterday wished Lovell all the best after admitting Managing Director Rod Petrie and the player's agent had failed to reach a compromise over a new deal.

He said: "I spoke to Stuart last week, and he felt he might be better looking for a more secure deal.

"His agent spoke to Rod Petrie and asked if

he could have our permission to speak to other clubs, and we agreed.

"We have now withdrawn our offer to Stuart and with his contract having expired he will now be leaving the club."

But McLeish admitted he was still hopeful his other out-of-contract striker, Mixu Paatelainen, will agree to extend his stay at Easter Road. He said: "I haven't heard from Mixu yet because I believe he is on holiday but I'll hopefully get the chance to sit down with him later this week.

"Rod has been in contact with his agent, and we are hopeful that something can be agreed, although the outcome will have to suit both parties."

McLeish also remains confident Hibs record pounds 700,000 swoop for Ecuador international Ulises de la Cruz will go through in the near future.

And Petrie is also in high spirits about the deal for Marc Libbra will be sorted with French side Tolousse.

CAPTION(S):

HOPEFUL: McLeish; FREE: Lovell
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 13, 2001
Words:335
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