Improving on last season’s Invincible Treble winning squad within the strict confines of the Celtic transfer budget was always going to prove to be a difficult task for Brendan Rodgers and his backroom team. Faced with overcoming Celtic’s famously frugal board, it was highly unlikely that any high profile or high value transfers in to the club would be sanctioned before qualification into the Champions League was confirmed. The arrival of the talented playmaker Olivier Ntcham for a reported £4.5million before the qualifying rounds were over should therefore be seen as a coup in more ways than one.
Instead, while Celtic fan forums debated who and how many players Celtic should be looking to sign, the reality of Summer Transfer Window 2017 from a Celtic perspective was about somehow re-signing Patrick Roberts, patching up one or two holes in the squad, but more importantly keeping the Invincibles together.
In an ideal world Celtic would have signed a top class centre half, a left back to replace Izzy, a dominating midfielder to play alongside Ntcham, Patrick Roberts, a centre forward, and maybe even a new goalkeeper to challenge Craig Gordon. But real life is not Football Manager and realistically after signing Ntcham and chasing Roberts all summer, there was only ever going to be money left over for one other top team signing; unless players were sold, which was not option when trying to build a strong and successful team.
At the time of writing, and I suspect it will remain the same after, Celtic have signed 5 players during the summer for an estimated outlay of circa £5.8million, not including loan fees for Roberts and Edouard.
Ntcham’s arrival has given the midfield an extra touch of class with the young Frenchman having already shown how comfortable he is in possession along with his wide range of passing. In order to make an impression and dictate play in Europe Celtic needed to add a player capable of sitting deep, taking the ball, and making play happen; Ntcham seems to fall into that category very nicely and has already proved his worth with man of the match performances both domestically and in the European qualifiers.
Patrick Roberts needs no introduction to Celtic fans after his spectacular form last season which saw him score 11 goals in 47 appearances and set up countless others, which helped to make him a fans favourite and number one signing target after his initial loan expired. Although his return to Paradise is on anther loan deal, his willingness to push the move through ahead of potential transfers to Southampton and Nice highlight that the affection the Celtic fans have shown Roberts is a two way love affair. Having the dynamic winger back to terrorise defences in Scotland and in the Champions League is a mouth watering prospect.
Not being a big follower of French top flight, never mind youth or lower league football, the name of Odsonne Edouard is, I must admit, a new one to me. Having done the same internet research as most readers my first impressions are that he looks like a talented prospect who needs an arena in which in to develop his game and a coach who can get the best out of him; something Rodgers is great at. In light of Moussa Dembele’s current injury and Leigh Griffiths being the only fit senior centre forward in the squad, Celtic were calling out for a third option. Young, talented (by all accounts), and hungry for an opportunity to shine Edouard might just fit the bill.
Jonny Hayes and Kundai Benyu complete Celtic’s incoming transfers for the summer with both likely to play bit part roles throughout the season. The recent re-signing of Patrick Roberts will see Hayes slip to fourth choice winger with Sinclair and Forrest also ahead of him in the pecking order, while at only 19 Benyu is certainly more of a player for the future who will look to benefit from picking up appearances in the Cups or when first teamers are rested.
Unlike other recent summer transfer windows this year’s departure lounge has not been visited by any first team regulars. Emilio Izaguirre, Kris Commons, and Efe Ambrose were amongst the 27 players to leave either permanently or on loan, however none had been able to establish themselves in the first team under Brendan Rodgers; the trio only mustering 20 appearances between them last season with Izzy making 18 of them. While they all served the club well during their stays at Celtic Park, all had lost their place in the last season or two as the likes of Kieran Tierney, Tom Rogic and Jozo Simunovic all emerged.
Other notable departures included the transfer of Gary Mackay-Steven to Aberdeen and Ryan Christie and Scott Allan on loan moves to Aberdeen and Dundee respectively, both of whom will have an opportunity to play regular first team football and maybe, just maybe, force their way back into the reckoning at Celtic.
The club also managed to offload Saidy Janko (St. Etienne), Logan Bailly (Mouscron), and Nadi Ciftci (Plymouth Argyle, Loan) whilst loaning several youth players out to gain valuable first team experience.
The first few weeks of the season has also seen Anthony Ralston, Calvin Miller, and Kristoffer Ajer step in to the fold playing more minutes of first team football already this season than they did for Celtic last term – Ajer of course spending time on loan at Kilmarnock during the 2016/17 season – and offering new options and alternatives.
All in all while we can always wish for one more player or value the signing we didn’t make higher than one we have made, summer 2017 has been pretty fruitful for Celtic.
With no key departures, the number one target signed, the midfield improved by Ntcham’s presence and the third striker finally arriving Celtic will leave the transfer window stronger than they entered, and that is a very nice place to be.
Thoughts and comments always welcome.
|Olivier Ntcham||Midfield||21||Manchester City||£4.5m|
|Kundai Benyu||Midfield||19||Ipswich Town||Free|
|Patrick Roberts||Winger||20||Manchester City||Loan|
|Emilio Izaguirre||Left Back||31||Al-Fayha||£1.26|
|Saidy Janko||Right Back||21||St. Etienne||Undisclosed|
|Nadir Ciftci||Forward||25||Plymouth Argyle||Loan|
|PJ Crossan||Forward||18||Alloa Athletic||Loan|
|Jamie Lindsay||Midfield||21||Ross County||Loan|
|Fiacre Kelleher||Defence||21||Oxford United||Free|
|Paul McMullan||Forward||21||Dundee United||Free|
(all transfer fee’s taken from transfermarkt.co.uk)