Sometime over the next week or two, Celtic will lay down a major marker in terms of our intentions for this team going forward. We will spend upwards of £12 million on securing the long term futures of Jota and Cameron Carter Vickers.
As I said yesterday, there is some concern that we’re spending that money just to stand still … in fact, I think we’ll be stronger for having these guys tied down and even if we were spending it to stand still, that would be better than not spending it and going backwards.
This club is in a great place at the moment.
This club spending that kind of cash is a real statement of intent. It is also, and very obviously, a show of force. More demonstrations of our financial power will be coming as the summer goes on.
There is no doubt that this club will be in a tremendously strong position when the window closes.
We will retain the best players, save for the two who have left already and the manager has pointed out that we were way ahead of the curve on that and signed three midfielders in January in no small part to bed their replacements in.
That is the sort of joined-up-thinking that we’ve been missing, as a club, for a number of years and it is excellent to see that sort of strategy being pursued. The manager clearly knows which areas of the team he wants additional talent in, and he will be working hard with Mark Lawwell to make it happen. That man can answer some big questions by having a good summer, but if we really do push the boat out for Jota and Carter Vickers it’s a fine start.
There are clues as to what Ibrox is going to do in response to Celtic’s powerful spending, and if I were one of their supporters I would already be concerned. Talks to tie down 40-year-old Allan McGregor on a new deal?
When their fans have blamed him for the concession of vital points in the title race? A new deal for Steven Davis, to go with the one they’ve already given Arfield? And a new deal for 33-year-old defender Balogun?
That would concern me if it was happening at Parkhead.
We’re talking about footballers here, not fine wine that improves with age. If they are desperately trying to get these guys signed up, what does that tell you about their likely spending priorities?
We know their club made big money out of that Europa League run, but several million of that was squandered on the junk they brought in in the January window.
More was pissed down the rabbit hole of the dispute with Sports Direct.
They lost £20 million last season; how much of that particular deficit was made up out of loans which had to be repaid?
All of that eats into the transfer budget they have for the summer.
All of that impacts on how much Van Bronckhorst has to spend. It might well be that Ibrox’s board has already told him that funds are limited and they need to sell before they can spend more.
He does have a number of key assets who are in the last year of their deals … I think that with Goldson almost certainly heading down south that they need to sell these guys before the same thing happens with them.
I think getting Aribo or Kent or Morelos to extend their contracts is an absolute non-starter.
The press thinks the Europa League run will have increased their values; yesterday I showed that this is not the case when I looked at the Europa League Best Squad talents from previous seasons; of those guys not in top five leagues, none got a big money move on the basis of making that grade.
I do not expect Tavernier, Kent, Aribo or Bassey to go for eight figure sums just because they did. Morelos has been available for nearly three years … no-one has bit.
When a club is handing out contract extensions to players in, or approaching, their mid-thirties to stop them leaving for free, that is not a club which is planning on breaking the bank.
If they could be sure of Champions League riches, maybe they’d go for it.
On top of that, this is not a club in any position to uncover a Hatate or O’Riley or an Abada.
You can tell how good their scouting is based on January when their “marquee” signings – the loanees – were expensive flops hired on the back of their reputations; one an up and comer, the other a has-been. There was nothing to merit either move except that they generated good headlines. They traded on reputations, not on reliable qualities.
One of the alleged strengths of Van Bronckhorst is his ability to do more with less; his net spend at Feynoord was virtually nil. At Ibrox that is exactly what they are counting on, that he has an eye for a player which their football department doesn’t currently possess. One of the miracles of Ange’s Celtic revolution is the near perfect strike rate on signings.
For Ibrox to manage something similar … well it’s not impossible, but nor is it particularly evidenced by the business they did in the January window.
If they have limited funds, if they can’t sell the big earners as their contracts wind down, the question arises as to what kind of rebuild they’ll be able to do? A bargain basement one is clearly not going to appease fans who expect that their Europa League bounty will be spent on having a right good go at getting to the Champions League.
We also know that players in the final year of their deals are not going to run through brick walls for any manager, no matter how much they might like him or think they owe the club.
It was one of the reasons why we needed to ship out Edouard, Christie and Ajer last season before anything else could be done; these guys were done giving their all for us, although Christie, to be fair, did find a new, temporary spark to his game under Ange having been freed from the ridiculous shackles placed on him by the previous manager.
We have no such issues here. Bitton, Rogic, Jullien and Forrest were the key players coming up to the end of their deals. We gave Forrest a new contract, and the two midfielders were replaced in January by a manager who always plans ahead … and he still wants a midfielder this summer. Jullien, we can presume, will be cut loose, for his attitude if nothing else.
In a sense, Ibrox’s board and management team are trying to make the rebuild a little less difficult, but I don’t believe that their squad will be stronger for retaining so many players who have passed their peak. Indeed, I think an over-reliance on these old warhorses will be a disastrous policy if Celtic come flying out of the gate next season, as I expect.
It does speak to a club which intends to do a rebuild on the cheap.
The last thing I expected was for them to give new contracts to these guys; I am sure the players didn’t expect it either.
If this was us the media would be telling our fans to prepare for hard times, and some form of austerity, no matter how much money we were boasting about having made.
The thing that matters is how much you can spend.