Last night, in case you missed it, or in case you didn’t pick up on the nuance, Chris Sutton called our manager a liar. He called our assistant manager a liar. He called our club out as some kind of mercenary organisation. This comes down to who you believe; Sutton’s anonymous sources or the man who sits in the dugout every week, works with the players every day and probably has a better understanding of life inside Celtic than anyone.
With all respect to Sutton, I know who my money is on. His source is talking arrant nonsense, and I wonder what that individual is actually motivated by. If I were Sutton, I would be very careful before I repeated another word that came out of said person’s mouth.
The trouble with Sutton is that he gets ideas in his head and blurts them out, and many of them have been stupid. This one is also reckless, and it has so many holes in it that it’s a wonder he can’t spot them. Two seconds of thinking the issue through would have done it. His comments make exactly zero sense, except in two scenarios which we’ll get to.
I do not believe for one second that Celtic are trying to sell Moussa Dembele against his wishes. The story does not stack up. If Dembele is the player we all think he is and which foreign and English scouts think he is, the best move would be to keep him and have him ready for next season’s Champions League qualifiers. They are worth £30 million to us.
Sell Dembele without needing to … and put that at risk.
It’s stupidity. It is rank stupidity and I don’t believe for a second that it’s a move we are even remotely contemplating. No club which found itself with a top drawer striker on its hands would willingly let him go. Celtic’s policy has been never to stand in a player’s way … that policy does not extend to shuffling them out the door.
As I said, there are two scenarios in which Celtic would be keen to sell him even if he was happy to stay. One is where the manager wants the money to strengthen the whole team in a single window. An eight figure sum would give him the latitude to sign three high value footballers for key positions. Yet even in those circumstances I know Brendan would find a way to do it without anyone’s nose getting out of joint.
He certainly wouldn’t drop the player. That doesn’t put him in the shop window. Has Sutton even considered that? Did it even enter his head before he talked his nonsense last night?
The only other circumstance where we would want to sell Dembele without his wanting to go would be if we discovered something about him which might limit his value at a later date, such as an underlying injury concern. But even that scenario is improbable at best because English clubs are just as rigorous as we are, and we called off the Coetzee deal because of a long term concern. There is no prospect of a club down south missing that.
No, Celtic are not trying to force the player out of Parkhead. He would be on the pitch if that were the case, as we tried to drive his value up, and we would have done things quietly, respectfully, behind the scenes. It would not have gone public.
And that’s where Sutton was on to something; I believe Dembele’s head is no longer in the game and he wants away. Fine. But we should never have publicised that fact, that was a mistake, and one Brendan was trying to roll back last night. It was un-necessary and has guaranteed a flurry of headlines for the next week … but then we’ve probably calculated that those headlines were coming whether we wanted them to or not.
Regardless, taking our dirty laundry and hanging it up in public is not a move I ever expected to see Celtic make and we ought not to have done it. It has turned the fans against the player to a certain extent, and as frustrated as Brendan and Chris Davies might be with what’s going on in the background that was a stupid move.
Dembele will probably still be here when the window closes next week. Neither he nor Celtic will ultimately benefit from a hasty sale right now and that’s one of the problems I have with the way Brendan and Chris Davies have handled this. Dembele himself has been remarkably short-sighted in agitating for a move when the interested clubs are those from the lower echelons of the EPL. He and his agent are already tearing up his career plan.
Before Chris Sutton opens his mouth next time I’d advise that he talks to the people who really are at the centre of all this. Except they won’t tell him anything. At Celtic, people do follow that old aphorism that “those who speak do not know and those who know do not speak.” That’s why the last few days have been so jarring.
From now on, everyone at Celtic Park has to watch every word they say.
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