I remember where I was when I heard that Olivier Ntcham was signing for Celtic.
I was in Gran Canaria. I didn’t have my phone with me that day and so I couldn’t even check to see who the guy was. I had never heard of him in my life, but the addition of another Frenchman couldn’t hurt in the increasingly troubled effort to keep Moussa Dembele at the club.
When I got back to the hotel and found out that he was a City project player I thought we might be onto something, as that was obviously a first rate finishing school for footballers. The fee was around £4 million, so it was a lot of money, and obviously Rodgers considered him a next-level player. He had spent the two prior seasons on loan, at Genoa, playing 41 games.
So he was no slouch. This guy was rated, highly, and big things were expected of him when he first pulled on the football boots for our club. And initially, at least, that promise seemed to be realistic. Because you could tell that this guy had something.
He played 30 league games that first season, in 48 appearances overall.
He was so highly thought of that we gave him a new contract just over a year after he joined us. He signed that four-year deal in August 2018.
Almost a year to the day later, he scored against Lazio in the Europa League. By then there were enough doubts being raised about him though.
Transfer rumours had stalked Ntcham for many months by then, including one about Porto which just would not go away and which the player was apparently sold on.
It didn’t matter whether or not the stories were true, he seemed to believe them and his form dropped off a cliff. Ntcham basically chucked it, as was exemplified at St Mirren just over a month after he’d signed his new deal. That night he tromped about the pitch like someone who wanted to be somewhere, anywhere, else and got himself sent off before it was half time.
He frequently drifted in and out of games. He frequently seemed to be in a permanent strop. But every now and then he would turn in a magical performance that would make us all forget that he was capable of extreme petulance.
By 2021 he was being offered to clubs on loan, and even that turned into a fiasco.
When Marseille moved to take him off our hands for a while their manager, André Villas-Boas, threatened to resign. There aren’t many players whose signings can have that sort of impact on a manager. In the end, he was suspended for ranting about the move and they finally dispensed with his services. It didn’t help Ntcham, who had a really poor time there.
He moved to Swansea in the end, far below the level we had all thought he might one day play at and you know what? He’s blown that as well. He was not exactly setting the heather on fire there in the first place, but refusing to play a game? That’s heavy even for him.
Samsunspor have announced his signing. So he winds up at an obscure club in Turkey which is a far cry from where we all expected him to be. He’s now 27. The chances of him making it in the way we might have expected is now virtually nil. I think those of us who liked him recognise that this is a waste of a fine footballer, but God, what a lazy arrogant one.
And that’s the trouble, and it proves what this site has long said about talent not being enough. He had the talent in spades. It’s the rest of it that let him down.