If we sign David Turnbull this week for £3 million, it will take our transfer outlay for this window to a sexy £14 million without even taking into account the fee we would have had to pay for Elyounoussi, and all this before the club brings in the central defender we’ve been looking for.
All in all, it looks set to be a mammoth one for Celtic … the biggest, maybe, since Martin O’Neill was at the club, and all of it net spend at the moment.
Right now, it feels significant. But we always wonder how significant and in what way?
Ask someone about the prospect of us spending £15 million upwards and they’ll tell you Celtic would only do that if we stood to recoup £30 million in fees. That gets alarm bells ringing when you consider that Eddie would probably command that staggering sum.
It makes one wonder what the rest of this window might hold for us … and not in a good way.
But there are other saleable assets of course, such as Ryan Christie, Callum McGregor and Kris Ajer, who would all comfortably fetch eight figures and then some. Indeed, all three of those guys would get Dembele style money … £20 million or thereabouts.
The thing is, there’s no sign that any of these guys would be allowed to leave.
The only one who might head off into the sunset in this window is Ajer, because he’s not on a long team deal like the rest of them and, in my view, is probably not of the calibre you’d expect if you were a club paying a whopping fee like those which have been touted for him.
The way I see it, a central defender worth that kind of money would be wasted in the SPL anyway; I would have no problem with the club accepting somewhere between £15 million and £20 million for Ajer if the offer came in, as long as his replacement was lined up … a stretch of course considering we’ve yet to get one central defender in yet.
But we could replace Kris Ajer for half that, and still get a footballer who would walk into any team in this league. This is why I would be quite ambivalent about it if he moved on … provided, as I say, we got that replacement in and right quick.
McGregor and Christie would be harder to replace. Callum because he’s the best midfielder in the country on his day, and Christie because he is a hard working machine who’s got good feet, can score goals, covers every blade of grass and is only going to improve.
To let go of either player, they’d need to want to go and badly enough that those at the club felt it better not to keep them around. I cannot believe that of McGregor, and have serious doubts that Ryan Christie would be banging that drum behind the scenes.
That boy was born to play for Celtic, and he waited for his chance like few others.
His moment is now, and he’s going to be part of the folklore here.
Questions about who might go to pay for all this seem even more valid in light of the global health crisis and the stark need for teams to make cuts. We’ve accepted the reality in this in a way the club across the city hasn’t. If we fail to make the Champions League Groups, then I’d say something does have to give and someone’s going to have to go.
But that, too, might be part of the calculus here. Maybe, for once, we’re gambling big for the big reward, and not just the Champions League, of course. Can you even imagine the merchandising opportunities to celebrate the securing of the ten?
I know people inside Celtic are eagerly anticipating them.
I think that’s part of the calculation, and so too is this; we know that next summer, if we’ve won it, that we can dismantle much of this team, and allow the likes of Eddie and Ajer and Christie to go if that’s what they want, with the prize already secure, and do a radical rebuilding job for the next phase of the club’s dominance.
In short, we could take a one-season hit, to get over this line, knowing that next summer we can sell some of the big names and do a rebuilding job.
No-one at Celtic will want to give up a league title, and especially not to that bunch across the city, but I think ten could collapse them like a house of cards.
That would afford us an unprecedented opportunity to seal our top spot in this country for another decade at least. Next summer will almost certainly see tremendous upheaval and change at both clubs … but we’d be financially strong whilst they’d be staggeringly weak, and that would tell in the respective strengths of the playing squads.
So perhaps we are going to take this one on the chin, to put ten in a row in the bank, and then to work on the squad plans for next season having taken some major changes into account. Maybe we just reckon on having a better chance of those Champions League Groups if we push the boat out now and take our shot, rather than being passive about it.
And perhaps a top player has already agreed a move and so we know how all this is being paid for. That’s possible, of course it is. But I don’t know how that could have been done without the media being aware of it and without some obvious signs …
I mean, if you were a suspicious person you could point to Ajer’s being dropped, for example, and take it a sign, but I don’t think that one stands up when you look at it. This just doesn’t feel like a Morelos type situation, not with a player who is a model of professionalism.
Either way, when we do land our central defender – and more and more it looks like it’ll be Duffy coming in – we can evaluate where we are and how things stand. Rogic will almost certainly leave in this window, and if we can £5 million that will pay for some of this, although by no means all of the business that’s been transacted.
I have to be honest and say that I’m pleasantly surprised that we’ve spent big in this window, and on the kind of quality which can go straight into the first team.
Not for us, this season, with projects or punts. The three we’ve brought in are first team footballers.
Duffy would walk into this side. Turnbull will be no bit-part player either, but a regular starter.
Something has definitely changed in the way we’re doing things, and it might even have started last year with the deals for Forster, Abd Elhamed and Jullien … straightforward first eleven footballers. I suspect we didn’t realise what we had on our hands with Frimpong, and we probably thought Bolingoli would do us a turn on the left … which is why he cost £3 million.
That proves only that mistakes will be made from time to time – no strategy is perfect, after all, and it won’t be bad performances that end Boli’s time at Celtic, it’ll be his stunning breach of health protocols, from which there’s no way back.
But this is surely a better way to do business than taking punts on potential all the time, a system which has paid some dividends but also left us the likes of Bayo, Eboue, Shved and others going back to the likes of Balde, Pukki, Rasmussen and the rest.
We’ve brought in a lot of money over the years, but we’ve squandered a lot of it as well.
That’s definitely something that has focussed a lot of minds at Celtic Park in the last wee while, and has resulted in Nick Hammond doing a major re-organisation behind the scenes. It’s a general stepping up of the game in terms of scouting and everything else.
Notice, too, the focus on undervalued assets in England such Elyounoussi, Forster, Ajeti and now Duffy. Couple that with Turnbull and, last season, the signing Greg Taylor … there’s a focus on the UK which we haven’t seen at this club in a long time, which isn’t to say we won’t pick up premium players from other locales … France remains a strong scouting ground, and we went to Greece this season in order to find our first choice goalkeeper.
I’m only surprised we haven’t better utilised the Bosman market … that might be a recognition that the kind of players who can visibly improve our squad will command astronomical wages as a result of being freebies, and it might be the reason we’ve been put off.
The overall trend seems positive, to me, and if the board has decided to spend big in this window it’s because this is the window in which to do it, with everything that’s at stake in this special, special season. The suspicion that it will be paid for with a top class departure is a reasonable fear to have, but there’s no indication that it’s justified.
Even if it proves to be, you have to look at the overall strength of the squad and where it stands when the window shuts … and at the moment, we’ve let go some fringe footballers whose injury profiles didn’t justify new deals and those we’ve brought have been of a high quality.
Turnbull will give the midfield an extra dimension as Ajeti has up front, we know what we’re getting with Elyounoussi and Barkas should be solid and dependable. Duffy would be a major upgrade at central defence. Few would argue that we look weaker overall, and those who would are wrong because it’s clear that we’ll have improved where it matters.
So right now, I’m pleased with it all … there’s something developing, and you can see that.
If we’re all a little bit antsy about the time it’s taking to sign a centre back, I’m sure we all recognise that if it’s Duffy or someone of that calibre that it will have been worth taking the time on to get it right … the only other question will be as to whether someone’s going.
And that, I’m afraid, we’re just going to have to wait and see … and trust in those at the club who will have clearly taken it into account with the spending thus far.
Because if someone had told me at the start of this window that we’d be heading, by late August, with over a month to go, for a net spend of £14 million, with everything that’s going on in the world, I’ve have told them they were absolutely nuts.
Yet here we are. Here we stand.
It’s fair to say, I’m pleasantly surprised.
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