Even as Brendan Rodgers and his team are enjoying themselves over in Dubai, the business of the club does not wait. It continues apace, with the first confirmed signing – that of Koussai Eboue – now confirmed, and the first departure of the window concluded, that of young Eoghan O’Connell who is departing for Walsall on loan.
Eboue’s signing promises to be interesting. Initially thought of as a more defensive type of player, Brendan has clearly earmarked him for a much more forward going role. I’m not sure that comparisons with the likes of Coutinho are necessarily to be believed, but we’ve paid a lot of money for this kid and so he’s clearly not someone we’ll throw in the reserves for years.
It’s good to get this one over the line, although it’s been expected for several days now. Whenever a deal remains hanging in the balance there’s an element of worry … but this one is signed, sealed and delivered, subject to a work permit which the club clearly views as a formality.
I was pleased to see that he will wear the number 88 shirt on his back; he’s clearly been given a crash course in the history, and that number will reflect well on him.
Eoghon’s departure was widely expected. This kid is going to be a quality player, but he’ll only develop right if he goes out and gets games, and the defensive partnership of Simunovic and Sviatchenko is proving hard to shift.
He won’t be the last of our first team squad players to Exit Stage Left. He’s not the last defender either. One suspects that Efe Ambrose, Dedryk Boyata and Nir Bitton will join him on pastures new before the closing of the window in 18 days’ time.
Most of us knew this would be a busy window. A work permit is all that stands between Eboue and his signing on at Celtic Park. A number of others players have been linked with a move to us, including one of the manager’s long term targets, Henri Lansbury.
The trail has gone somewhat cold on that one, but I don’t think it’s dead. Just quiet.
Other names are in the frame and if certain moves don’t pan out I have a feeling that the manager’s Plan B will be as effective as Plan A. Brendan always thinks ahead.
Seeing players depart Parkhead, you always wonder what might have been. Let’s take Efe for example; he has consistently excelled at international level. No matter what some of his critics have said – and they’ve said plenty over the years – there was once a footballer there, and maybe a very decent one. His confidence is shot now, and it’s better if he leaves.
Dedryk Boyata arrived at Celtic Park with a growing reputation. He, too, has seen his confidence deteriorate at our club. To be fair, he arrived at the wrong time and to do the wrong sort of job. He was brought in to replace Jason Denayer and I think expectations were on the high side, as both had come from the Manchester City youth academy.
Today, with its usual crassness, The Daily Record has branded him “a misfit.” What kind of word is that to use, for God’s sake? What idiot thought that was appropriate? We’re talking about a football player here, a guy who simply wasn’t up to par.
Not a ned, not a guy who behaved badly, not somebody who disrupted training or got himself into trouble off the field … The Daily Record’s reputation as a diabolical rag is based on exactly this kind of mischaracterisation, and they ought to be ashamed of themselves, but of course won’t be.
Nir Bitton is one that leaves me with mixed emotions. Everyone can tell he’s got something, but he looks unsuited to the pace of the game Brendan wants to play. Nir is a more leisurely player, a guy who would fit nicely into a short passing team in a less frenetic league. He has the physicality to be one of those aggressive, bullying midfielders but it’s not his style of play. He has good feet and skill, and he can read a game and spot a pass.
But watching his partnership with Brown this season has produced some of the only occasions where Celtic fans have griped. The feeling is that it was a partnership which tended to bog us down in the middle, reducing the pace of the team, instead of meeting Brendan’s demands for quick forward going play. That’s not Nir’s fault; he was signed to do a specific job in Neil Lennon’s team and then had to adapt to Ronny’s style. He’s a signing from two regimes ago, and there was always likely to be a change this time around.
He will go with our gratitude, and our best wishes.