It’s over. Moussa Dembele is marking time at Celtic Park.
He must not be allowed to leave in this window, because it’s abundantly clear that we will never replace him before it closes, so our squad would be weaker as a result. But he will go in the summer. He must go in the summer. Any player who is not mentally ready for Brechin City is of no use to us at all and is finished at our club.
We’re marking time, and that’s all we’re doing.
But the Moussa Dembele problem will not leave the club with him, because the problem isn’t with Moussa Dembele.
We live in an era of greed and arrogance, and it has hit football like it’s hit every other industry with one exception; we can command a transfer fee when he goes.
But forget about wishing him well on his journey.
Moussa Dembele signed a four-year deal. He’s given us 18 months, and in fact only 12. That is not loyalty. He hasn’t given us loyalty. In the modern game people will say that there is none of that, but Celtic has done itself no favours here. We’ve allowed media speculation to run rampant from the day this guy scored against Manchester City.
Instead of tackling it, we fed it. We fed it because we have a strategic approach at Celtic which is at odds with what we need to do to grow in the modern game. We are an altruistic club in a cynical and ruthless business and we’ve made a rod for our backs.
Brendan and others at Celtic Park talk about us doing what’s in the best interests of players; players are overpaid and over indulged children these days. We talk about these guys having a “moral right” to pursue their ambitions elsewhere.
We advertise our club as a “stepping stone” to teams like Southampton and Brighton and West Ham and Everton and then marvel at players wanting to leave us for those clubs.
We sell ourselves short, even if we can now command big fees.
Perhaps its old fashioned to believe that someone who pledges four years of his career to you should give you more than one.
Perhaps it’s stupid to think that a club which presents itself as a sleeping giant acts so often like it is weak and unable to resist the demands of players or agents or a media which will never sleep and never tire in its efforts to undermine each and every single thing that we do. I wrote about Hamilton leaving out a player after Sevco had put pressure on him and them, and a day later Brendan Rodgers admits we did the same.
We have telegraphed to the whole world today that Dembele is unsettled and that media speculation can do it. That is weakness, and we’ve advertised it. It might well be the stupidest thing Brendan has done since the day and hour he joined the club.
But the problem doesn’t start with Brendan, it starts above his head with The Strategy, and The Strategy, as this window has proven so far and I now think will ultimately prove, is just as restricting as it ever was. It defeats any effort to build a squad. It shatters any notion of continuity. It will tie the hands of any manager, whatever his background, whatever his name.
Forget about building this team whilst the current philosophy of the club remains this way. We have given Dembele permission to back out of his contract. We have given him permission to leave at the time of his asking, instead of controlling the situation ourselves.
Those inside the club may say we’re doing the right thing, and that may well be the case. Our sense of responsibility is awesome. It’s also stupid.
Dembele will leave in the summer, or sooner, but whoever we bring in to replace him will be on transfer watch from the minute he arrives. Because clubs and agents and the media knows we’re a selling club with a selling club mentality. And until that changes we’re going to repeat this merry-go-round time and time again.
That’s the real problem, and it will be with us long after Dembele has gone.