I find it ever amazing how little some people in football know about the clubs with which they are involved. I find it incredible that some managers let go of mega-talents although it is obvious to many outside parties that this is exactly what they are.
Three cases in point are obvious.
There is Henrik Larsson, who we got for a price that even then would and should have been associated with the words “daylight robbery.”
John Hartson is another who I look back on and can barely believe what we signed.
The third is our boy Kyogo, a kind of modern day example of a footballer whose club must not have recognised the full measure of his skills.
But Jota – a player we don’t own – is the raging example of a footballer who is far, far better than his club knew, and what almost certainly makes that tougher to bear is that they know now, whilst he’s still their own player … and still it’s out of their hands.
I don’t think Celtic will ever be foolish enough to do the “loan with an option to buy” thing again.
Not with any player under a certain age, where the potential for growth exists. We learned that the hard way, with Jack Hendry, who we watched from a distance become a far better footballer and possibly one we’d have liked to have kept.
Even without that option, had we not put that stupid clause in then the big money he went for shortly after his transfer was formalised might have come to Celtic instead. It was a massive blunder on the part of the management team, one of many.
This season, we are the beneficiaries of it on two fronts as we’ve also brought in the excellent Cameron Carter Vickers and have the same opportunity to secure his signature on a long-term deal. That can wait until summer.
A player like Jota doesn’t come around often. He has to be the priority and it looks as if the board is taking that seriously.
Benfica fans are apparently furious. They recognise what they have now, even as it slips away.
He didn’t make it there, and he had opportunities, but that sometimes happens and a player often just needs a different environment in which to grow; would Feynoord have taken back Larsson three years into his Celtic tenure? Oh you bet they would, but that chance wasn’t open to them.
When you let go a promising youth player to learn his trade elsewhere you are supposed to protect yourself against the possibility that he might not come back … the loan to buy option was almost inserted into the contract of Ryan Christie; Aberdeen would have got him for a song.
Think of how embarrassing that would have been, and it’s a minor miracle we were spared it.
I think we’ve learned the lesson. I hope we have.
Benfica almost certainly have.
Jota will probably sign for Celtic for £6.5 million and leave our club for three times that or more, and wherever he goes he will probably have one or perhaps two more big moves in him of which we’ll get a hefty percentage as well. That’s how these deals work after all.
Undoubtedly, they learned enough from what happened with PSG over Edouard; their option to buy clause presumably has a large sell-on fee as part of the deal; that will protect them to some extent, but their fans would rather have the player, of course, to see what they could do with him now that he’s finding his form and his swagger.
Whatever happens next, I reckon that door is firmly closed.
There is always the possibility that he may be told he’ll be welcome back there, and is wanted, and that could be the deal-breaker because a player has to want to join your club at the end of the loan deal … but I think that door is closed to them too, because he seems to love it at Parkhead and has formed a great on and off the field friendship with Kyogo which he’ll hope can endure.
There seems little doubt that he’ll be a Celtic player for a while to come.
Benfica fans can rage but they should point it where it belongs; as their own coaches and their own directors who sanctioned this arrangement and are probably now wishing they hadn’t.
We feel your pain. But boy, it feels good to be on the other side of it this time.