The news today about Olivier Ntcham’s latest travails in France are a blow to the hopes Peter Lawwell and others at Parkhead had of us off-loading this guy for a tidy sum of money during the summer window.
Ntcham is coming back to Celtic Park.
He will turn up for pre-season training with one year left of his contract.
Under normal circumstances this is where we’d be looking to get shot of him for as much as we could get, but let’s be honest we know that the certain collapse of the deal with Marseille means that his value has tanked, and we’ll be lucky to get a rock bottom rate for him now.
Now we have a decision to make on him, and it’s going to come down to hard numbers.
That’s all this is.
It’s a cost-benefit calculation, an analysis of whether or not Ntcham offers us more for one last campaign that the low-ball transfer fee we’re likely to get.
We could, if we were bloody minded, tear his contract up and let him leave for free, but this club has done enough brazenly stupid stuff already in the past year and I think doing that would be an act of utter folly.
The player still has intrinsic worth to us … but where does the value in Ntcham lie now that he’s almost certainly coming back to Parkhead?
Ntcham has talent, and that’s not without the slightest dispute.
But God, he has an attitude issue which needs sorted and quickly if he’s to have the sort of career he’s capable of.
He seems to have desperately wanted out of Celtic Park, but he’s already realised that the grass isn’t necessarily going to be greener somewhere else.
He’s maybe realised something equally important too; he’s realised, perhaps, that he’s not as good as he thinks he is. That he’s not as special as the voices in his head keep telling him.
He may think he’s too good for Scottish football, although I know dozens of fellow fans who would tell him to his face that he’s not been particularly impressive here, but perhaps he’s realising that he just might not be good enough for the level he thinks he can play at.
Maybe what Ntcham needed more than anything else at this stage in his career was a dose of reality.
The reality is simple; he’ll be a Celtic player when pre-season training starts, or he’ll have moved to a club, for a nominal fee, which is far below the level he thought of himself as aspiring to.
Whatever interest there was in him will have dried up completely.
He might be as stuck with us as we are with him … and since we won’t get any sort of transfer fee for him at that point, I think the thing to do is tell him that he’s staying and seeing out his contract and remind him that the only way he gets a good move the next time around is to buck up his ideas and start trying to earn it.
Otherwise he’ll end up at a lower level again than if he left this summer.
This is make or break time for him in his career.
Brown is gone. Ryan Christie will be following him out the door, one way or the other. Bitton and Rogic may well be on the departure list as well. We are going to need to sign at least one central midfield player, and we know this already. At what cost?
Think of how much money we’ve spent on loanees; say we wanted to spend £1 million or more bringing in a central midfielder on loan. Would that really be a better use for the money than keeping Ntcham and giving him a right good shake?
I’ve said on this site that we should go and get Allan Campbell from Motherwell before some English club does, leaving us free to watch him become an EPL midfielder in the future. I stand by that, and he should be one of our earliest signings.
With another addition in that area, and Ntcham still on the books, I think the centre of midfield is taken care of.
Yes, Ntcham will be there as filler … unless he turns it on, and that’s the issue because if he does find form then there’s no footballer we’re likely to sign, or likely to be able to afford, who would be a better bet on short notice.
It would be for a year, but if he chips in with ten goals and the same number of assists, isn’t that better than letting him go for a nominal fee and then paying more than we get for him for some player who does little better than that?
One of the problems we seem to have had in the past couple of years is an inability to think about things in a rational way; we’ve made ridiculous decisions for short-term impact, with no thought as to the wider consequences.
This would be a short-term decision, but a good one because Ntcham is very capable of being a star in our first team squad … he was capable of going to Marseille and performing well and in doing so sticking that £4 million fee in the bank for us.
That move has been a disaster for him, but this is when we require a little hard-headed pragmatism.
If the next manager takes a look at Ntcham and decides he’s a waste of space then yes, cut our losses and get him off the wage bill however it’s done … but I rather think having a French Under 21 midfielder in our ranks is better than the paltry fee we’d bring in for him and the money we’d save on his salary for a year.
Our club needs to start thinking about this stuff in a better way.
I understand the logic of selling Klimala for the fee we were offered even if I think the new boss should have had that decision to make. I don’t understand why we wouldn’t bring back Jack Hendry to find out if he’s got the right mentality now to succeed in the first team. This is a no-brainer unless there’s something we don’t know about the player and his attitude around the club.
Ntcham has to know that he’s pissing his own future away.
We can throw him a lifeline and if he’s prepared to knuckle down and give us his very best then both parties can walk away happy when he finally leaves at the end of his current deal.
Honestly, the sooner we’ve got someone at the helm making these calls the better.
Right now it’s as if everything’s on hold and in the silence things are continuing to crumble.