What The Hell Happened To Celtic’s Initially Dazzling French Midfield Flop?

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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.

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  • jrm63 says:

    I remember a first half at Easter Road – one of the worst 45mins I have seen from a Celtic player. He truly was an enigma. I have no idea what happened there other than the fact that he was just not as good as he and we figured

  • Johnno says:

    Ended up becoming one of the most dislikeable players that ever played for us imo.
    The aggorance within him is off the scale and couldn’t care less about his career and glad to see the back of him and hope not to be hearing of his name again

  • Scud Missile says:

    Well we guessed a squirrel story was coming this week because of the sevco defeat at the weekend and there it is, Mr Bealing linked with the Wolves job.
    That’s the ground work layed should the result not work out for sevco tomorrow and Saturday.

  • Nick66 says:

    I’ll see your petulant James, and raise aloof. He left and his own opinion of himself failed to meet the standards required.
    So beit and unless he’s coming back, who the FCUK cares.

  • John says:

    Seen him play for Swansea last season at Sheffield. Barely recognised him. Contributed nothing to the game. Thing he was hooked off. Talent wasted.

    Been to Samsunspors ground. Relatively new. Fans are mental. The meet in the city centre and march to the ground. Crazy.

  • Michael McCartney says:

    Lazy and Moody, wasted his talent. Unfortunately his Compadre Edouard had the same Lazy and Moody persona in his final season with us. Even Dembele hasn’t become the top level footballer we all thought he’d become.
    Attitude seemed to be a problem with these three very talented players.

  • Robert Downey says:

    I agree, all the talent in the world but if you don’t have the right attitude it’s worth Jack Shit.
    His buddy is heading down the same road, Edouard, although he is still young enough to shine, if he doesn’t get his act together by the end of his present contract he will end up in Turkey too.

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