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Ibraimi back to stay at Maribor

MARIBOR will not follow Celtic by cashing in on one of their prize assets before the Champions League play-off tie between the teams.

The Slovenian side have intend to hang on to midfielder Agim Ibraimi, whose double took them through against Maccabi Tel Aviv in the last round.

Meanwhile, the Parkhead club's decision to sell goalkeeper Fraser Forster to Southampton for £10 million was back-page news in Slovenia yesterday.

Ibraimi, whose contract is up in May, was linked with Leeds United last week, but Maribor will tie up the Macedonia international on a new long-term contract.

The 25-year-old was watched by Newcastle United last summer, but instead headed to Italy on a season-long loan to Cagliari.

Ibraimi's last act before moving to Serie A was to help Maribor secure a place in the group stage of the Europa League, where they were eliminated by eventual winners, Sevilla, in the last 32.

The Maribor fans feared Ibraimi, who scored to help knock Rangers out of Europa League qualifying three years ago, could be moved on, but director of football Zlatko Zahovic told Slovenian newspaper Ekipa 24: "Agim Ibraimi will sign a new three-year contract.

"He wanted to return. It's only when you go to the People's Garden [Maribor's Ljudski Vrt Stadium] that you know what Maribor is.

"Cagliari have no fans, no passion. Agim enjoys the applause. He is very ambitious and likes to play in European competitions."

Maribor are so eager to keep a low profile before facing Celtic that they have told all the players not to talk about the meeting with Ronny Deila's team in Slovenia on August 20.

However, the little Macedonian, who speaks five languages, admitted when he got his move to Italy that the exposure from snatching the Europa League group prize from Rangers was a pivotal moment.

"The win over Rangers was one of the best moments of my career," Ibraimi said then. "Beating such a big club was a big step forward for me."

Phil Gordon

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Football

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