Don’t you love how the Scottish press goes out of its way to promote our club when we play in Europe? Don’t you just love the many ways in which they show their support to us? Like in finding former players who tell us what a great chance we have? Like finding foreign managers full of good advice on how we can beat the big boys, because they already have?
You missed those stories, huh?
Yeah, I missed them too.
Instead, what I read is negativity, nonstop and in the last week those responsible for that outpouring have outdone themselves with a stream of it which is quite unreal. The articles I found most ridiculous were those which focussed on the player who “snubbed us” during the summer, the striker who played for Eupen, Henry Onyekuru.
He, of course, is on loan at the moment, at Anderlecht, after a summer’s move to Everton. As most regular readers will remember, we were linked with him the whole way through last season, especially towards the last January window when we made several offers to his club, only for them to turn them down one by one by one.
Onyekuru was one of those guys who seemed dead-set on just messing us about. He knew a move to Celtic was a better bet than staying in Belgium, but he also thought there were better bets than us out there. For a long time there was talk of top clubs from Germany sniffing around him. Then Arsenal were said to be involved, and all the while his price went steadily up. At one stage he was talking about going on strike to get out of his club.
Celtic got leery at some point, probably around the time the transfer fee started to climb into the realm of the stupid. Celtic valued him at around £4 million … Everton eventually paid £7 million for him, plus a variety of add-ons.
I think part of Celtic’s concern was his conduct in the media, where he agitated for a move, touted himself to clubs everywhere and basically acted like a world class player who’d already made his name with teasing nonsense about how he would “announce his decision” when he was good and ready to. Billy Big Time Syndrome writ large, in other words.
So with that in mind it wasn’t terribly surprising to read last week’s “snubbed” stories doing the rounds, stories the press was more than happy to write, particularly as we’re going up against him.
Onyekuru says he’s made his dream move.
To Everton? Really? That was his dream move? To play for a mid-table team? A team which never challenges for major honours? He got lucky with the Anderlecht loan and the chance to play in the Champions League, and it turns out that he’ll come up against us in the two crucial games … he might as well enjoy them, and the second of them, at Celtic Park, in particular. It’ll be the last game of the campaign and it might well be the last time he sees European football for years, and the last he ever plays in the Champions League.
He went to England for the money. We all know that. The chance to develop as a player was the furthest thing from his mind. He’s gone to the EPL club which got there first and offered to pay him well, but it says a lot that even having gotten rid of Lukaku that the Goodison Park side doesn’t rate him as first-team ready; Patrick Roberts comes to mind.
A lot of English clubs do this now.
Onyekuru hasn’t “made it” because he’s wound up in England. Their clubs can afford to take multi-million pound punts like this, and every one of them is scared in case they miss out on the next big thing. This kid might be a player and he might not be, but his current happiness at getting a move where he gets the big bucks should be milked for all he can get out of it; if this goes wrong it might be the peak of his earnings.
Even if he lasts the distance and becomes a reasonably good footballer, the kind who can stay in the EPL for years to come and hoover up the riches, I wonder what his career goals actually are. The money will ease a lot of pain, but some players want to win things.
Onyekuru has that, by chance, because Everton loaned him out to a Champions League team. What if next time they decide to send him to the Championship? He has a five year deal. He can spit the dummy as much as he likes; Everton owns him now.
Celtic fans get enough of this vainglorious boasting from eejits here at home; we don’t need to be reading how some foreigner turned his back on the chance to sign for us and now wants to stick us in the Champions League groups. I know the press is gleeful at having a chance to write this kind of stuff, but really … at some point do they talk our chances up?
Onyekuru is a mouth that’s just begging to be shut. Against Celtic, in Anderlecht, we have a chance to show him what he’s missing. At Celtic Park we have a chance to put him out of Europe and give him his one, and probably only, taste of what life would have been like in front of the continent’s best supporters at one of its most atmospheric grounds.
He’s happy. And I’m happy for him. For now.
But happiness isn’t the default position for a player like Onyekuru. I wonder how long it will last. I suspect we’ll still be marching towards history when Everton fans are wondering just why in the Hell their club paid £7 million for this geezer.