Opinion: if Celtic want to be seen as an elite club, start acting as such
When Liverpool paid £ 75million for Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk, Celtic waited backstage to collect their selling costs, bringing the amount received for the imperious Dutchman to around £ 20million, or 10 million. times what they paid on the Eredivisie Groningen side for its services.
Pundits lined up to applaud another masterstroke from Peter Lawwell – the man with the Midas twist whose coaches and scouts were earning a reputation for turning cotton into gold.
Hoops had made solid profits on Aiden McGeady, Ki Sung Yeung, Gary Hooper, Fraser Forster, Victor Wanyama, Stuart Armstrong and Moussa Dembele.
Then there was the record £ 25million for Arsenal’s crown jewel Kieran Tierney – those eight players alone brought £ 100million into Parkhead’s coffers to help balance the books .
On the surface it seems like a good deal – and it is – but digging a little deeper reveals a huge problem that Eddie Howe, if he takes the Celtic job, will surely have to tackle.
The waste on buses full of players who just couldn’t cut the mustard is mind-boggling; In the 11 years since Neil Lennon first took over as manager, the Hoops have recruited more than 100 signings from the club.
While generating income from transfer fees is essential, how the money is reinvested is certainly of equal importance and in this regard, recruiting at Parkhead has left a lot to be desired.
In a speech on the state of the nation after the Rangers triumph, Ibrox leader Dave King accused the Celtic council of arrogance and pointed out that the lack of spending on team building was the key for his own club to win the title.
He might be right on the arrogant part, but he was dead wrong about the investment; Over the past summer, Celtic spent a significant amount of money on fees, loans and salaries for Moi Elyounoussi, Vasilis Barkas, Diego Laxalt, Shane Duffy and Albian Ajeti.
The problem was not with what was spent – it was who it was spent on. It was clear Celtic needed a striker and Peterborough’s Ivan Toney was the main target.
In the end, despite the player wanting to come to the north, the Hoops refused to pay the money and spent a little less on Ajeti – whose contribution became something of an embarrassment.
The Swiss look unfit, cranky and selfless as Toney ripped him apart in the league, scoring 28 goals for new club Brentford and becoming a target for several Premier League clubs.
Unfortunately for Lawwell and those below him – this is no accident. Teemu Pukki, Mohamed Bangura, Amido Balde, Stefan Scepovic, Nadir Ciftci, Carlton Cole, Colin Kazim-Richards, Patrick Klimala – there seems to be an endless list of bets on forwards who just weren’t up to par.
Steven Fletcher, John McGinn and others, meanwhile, were allowed to disappear south as Celtic bargained for pennies.
Then there is the ghost who is Barkas; billed as the £ 5million man to fill Fraser Forster’s shoes, but truth be told, Neil Lennon might as well have put a scarecrow in the net – and some might tell Scott Bain that’s exactly what he did.
Then there’s Duffy – a great signing on paper who would surely find Scotland a snap given he had held up in England for years. While the retreat has a 20/20 vision, his signing has been a disaster, his weaknesses brutally exposed by the way Celtic play.
Massive questions have been asked as to why such a player – who is best placed to defend the edge of his own box – was brought to the club in the first place. Where was the data analysis? Who gave the OK?
While Howe will represent something of a coup if his appointment is upheld, finding a new manager is just one of many issues new CEO Dominic McKay will have to tackle if the club is to win back the league.
The Parkhead board is said to be looking for a director of football with Man City’s Fergal Harkin – a Donegal native – linked to the post.
The whole operation needs an overhaul; The Rangers seemed fitter, hungrier and better trained. Their recruitment under Mark Allen seemed to have a purpose and was part of a plan.
Celtic, on the other hand, looked unfit, disorganized with players brought to the club with no real idea of how they would adapt.
There is some serious work ahead, but one thing is for sure – the insane and insane spending on everything from facilities to managers and players must stop.
If Celtic want to be seen as the best club in Europe, they have to start acting like one.