The thing with transfer windows is that you get a lot of white noise.
Last summer, the biggest stories were all manufactured by the media to hype up absolute dreck at Ibrox. They generated a story a minute. At Celtic Park the biggest story was about whether or not we’d get Patrick Roberts back on loan. We did, of course, in the end … but there was more going on.
The signing of the summer – and it didn’t take hindsight to figure this out; it was perfectly obvious to everyone with half a brain at time – was the one that cost the most money. It happened at Celtic Park instead of Ibrox though, and so it didn’t generate nearly the number of headlines as their own “high profile” (I can hear you laugh, I’m laughing too) buys did … Carlos Pena, Herrara, Alves. But it was easily the best signing a Scottish club made.
I was in Gran Canaria when I heard we had paid £4.5 million for Olivier Ntcham, and my first thought upon hearing it was “Who in God’s name is Olivier Ntcham?” But at no point did I wonder if my lack of knowledge signified waste. I knew people inside Celtic Park would never have sanctioned such a move without having done their homework.
Of course, a moment’s study revealed that Ntcham was a highly rated player. He’d spent a season on loan in Italy, and there was interest in keeping him there. City had invested a lot of time in him; I was actually amazed we got him after doing enough reading. The kid was clearly regarded as being special. It wouldn’t surprise me if some at City had been just as amazed.
The thing about Ollie is that his signing came right out of the blue. Nobody had the slightest sniff about it before he was paraded in a Celtic shirt. There had been no media speculation, no rash of stories, no long drawn out pursuit. The announcement came out of a clear blue sky, but even the biggest Scottish media mug must have known it was one we’d sweated over and worked hard for. We never got half the credit we should have for it.
What I’m saying is that we’re clearly not idle behind the scenes. Brendan and the board will have worked on his list for the last few months, and the appointment of the Liverpool youth coach over at Ibrokes (no typo that one) will not have altered the plan one iota. Some of our interest has leaked; that’s par for the course in modern transfer deals … but there will be surprises. We’ll have something in store that nobody sees coming.
We are a professional club. Look at the squalid situation at Ibrox; how do you think it happens that every time they go for a player it’s leaked to the media in advance? It’s a shocking way to do business. We, on the other hand, work diligently and quietly and with a high degree of skill. We close deals, or they never see the light of day.
And that’s why I am pleased that all’s quiet on the Parkhead front. The news about John McGinn earlier in the week came as no surprise, because that’s been on the cards for a while. There may or may not be something in the Jordan Ayew story, but if Liverpool are in the running then we’re probably not going to close that one. They can pay him more money and give Swansea a far higher transfer fee … but time will tell one way or another.
But deals will be struck. Moves will be made, and have probably been made already.
It’s going to be an interesting summer.