Yesterday, when Reo Hatate went off with what looked like a nasty injury, I think a lot of our fans speculated, and not without good cause, if he was being taken off to protect an asset which we’re soon to offer up for sale if he’s not already halfway out the door.
Speculation has continued to surround him, and although I don’t listen to much of it, and nor should any of us, the manager has made it plain that he acts for the good of the team as a whole.
That suggests that Hatate has to work on being a better team player. Whilst the manager says the player is not angling for a move, that’s not a definitive statement in any way as we all should be well aware.
Because there are degrees of commitment and not all of them tick the boxes as well as many at our club would like, and I’m sure that full and frank conversations have taken place within the club about this, and they will continue to be.
Hatate, in particular, will be put to a decision in the next few weeks. That decision will decide whether or not we actively seek a replacement. We have to know sooner rather than later though, and that might explain the manager’s selection policy.
He may well be trying to prepare the team for life without this exceptional and gifted player, and if he is then we should fully support that decision, because Rodgers already knows more than any of us do about what Hatate and his agents are really committed to.
There are a couple of elements of this which are often overlooked. The first is that Celtic has offered Reo a contract extension and no contract has been signed. It may just be a negotiating tactic, but if it’s not then we must assume the worst because along with that extension we’ve undoubtedly offered him more money.
Who turns more money down in the here and now?
People who expect to get vastly more of it somewhere down the line, that’s who.
In short, the only viable reason for turning down an extension is that you acknowledge that it makes Celtic’s negotiating position stronger if genuine interest is expressed in the player from abroad. If we decide to play hard-ball we’re holding stronger cards the longer the player has left on his deal, it’s just as simple as that.
It’s the reason Ange wouldn’t sign a proper contract with us, although he was offered the chance to do it several times … but he wanted the freedom to negotiate on his terms, not ours. It was the first signal to those inside Parkhead that he wasn’t committed long term.
I look at this in the same way as you’d discuss this with your significant other.
There are various answers you can get on “the commitment spectrum” and it’s up to you whether or not you’re willing to live with some of those answers, and the questions they raise.
You might have a partner who is 100% committed. Who loves you and will not consider wandering off the reservation no matter the temptation or the circumstances.
But you might have a partner who tells you “Look, I’m happy but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t stray if the right offer came along.”
That’s you effectively being told that they aren’t going out on the pull but if, as I’m willing to be honest about admitting, Sophie Turner gave me the opportunity then any relationship I was in would have to be flexible enough to deal with that.
I think a lot of relationships could survive a compromise like that.
It’s like in that episode of Friends where they talk about having a “freebie list”; it’s like a fantasy list of celebrities your other half would let you away with having sex with because it was unlikely (to put it mildly) ever to come to anything more than an idea. But if your significant other wanted to include the guy or girl who worked in the fruit market on their list … well, that would be a problem.
So, if Hatate is happy enough to stay at Celtic and not rock the boat that’s obviously good. If he’s clear that he’d want a move if a top four EPL club (based on last season, Man City, Arsenal, Newcastle and Man Utd) came in then you could probably live with that.
If he wanted to add Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool to the list that might be a little tougher to take because suddenly that’s one third of the Premier League. If he wanted permission to go to a “top half” team then that’s pretty vague for a start and leaves a lot of grounds for concern.
If the compromise you’re being asked to consider is that he’d want to go if a team from a “top five league” made an offer, then that’s like being asked to accept your other half going out clubbing and wanting permission to sleep with anybody who met a certain physical criterion, and that’s a sign of a relationship that’s on its last legs whether you like it or not.
Celtic shouldn’t have to accept that, and Brendan Rodgers certainly will not accept that.
It doesn’t mean that any player who makes that demand is going to leave – the offer needs to be there first, and that’s not always going to be the case, and the offer has to be on terms that Celtic does consider acceptable or there’ll be no deal. But it puts you on notice that you need to start thinking seriously about what your Plan B is.
We’re very obviously doing that, and now we just need to bring that clarity as soon as possible. Because we do not want this following us around for the next two weeks.
Hatate has been put on notice as to what this manager, and this club, expects … he’s either committed to the cause in a way we can live with and accept, or he’s probably not going to be here when the window shuts.