To Loan or not to Loan , that is,,,,

As I write this, the transfer window is wide open and the club has already completed some business. Vakoun Bayo has been signed on a four year deal, and two loans have arrived in the form of Weah and Burke. In addition, a couple of “frees” have been signed …..the left back, Guttman and the right back/wing back Manny Perez, subject to work permits. Efforts are ongoing to bring in a CB and a RB, either as acquisitions or loans depending on what you read and where you read it.

This prompted me to look at previous transfer windows to try to get a handle on the strategies (if any) at play by the recruitment function of the club. Recently, this area has been heavily criticized in terms of its performance, or, really, lack of performance.

Recruitment can be classified into three types: purchases, loans and frees or Bosmans. Let’s leave out the other option of promoting youth players because that is an area worth examining in its own right. Tierney, Forrest, Johnson and Ralston are examples of the latter but player development merits a separate article.

First, let me outline the terms of reference of this article…with the emphasis on the “tickle” part of that word. I considered the transfer activity of our last six managers:

Martin O’Neil(MON)

Gordon Strachan(GS)

Tony Mowbray(TM)

Neil Lennon(NL)

Ronny Deila(RD)

Brendan Rogers(BR)

These custodians covered the period from 2000 right up to the present.

Let’s start by asking the question: Which of the above managers relied the most upon loans? Stop reading now and look back at the list of managers(no reading ahead!) and write down your answer on the back of a pre-Brexit ten pound note and forward it to the “Rebus to Malaga” fund, care of the Dreaming in Technicolour Charity, Keynsham, Bristol. I shall try (and fail) to keep the statistical talk to a minimum. To digress, do you know that the definition of a statistician is? It is one who sleeps with his/her head in the oven and feet in the fridge and, on average, is comfortable? No? Ahh, well, how about he uses Statistics like a drunken man uses a lamp-post for support, rather than illumination? Heard that? No? I give up.

I expressed the number of loans as a percentage of the total number of players signed throughout each manager’s reign. The answer to the question is that RD and BR have used the highest percent of loans (30% and 32%) during their terms. So far, 32% of BR’s signings have been loans, excluding the current transfer window. If we rewind back to MON and GS(2000-5 and 2005-10)), there were relatively few loans (11%, 9%). So much for the personalities, but probably more interesting is that over the time period, MON to BR, there has been an increasing reliance on loaned players. The trend is very clear.

What does this mean? Is it a deliberate strategy or a fluke? Let’s assemble the facts. Through six managerial reigns and over the period of 2000 to the present day, our reliance on loaned players has jumped from around 10% to over 30%. Fluke or policy? You judge.

Are loans a bad thing? Look at the following. I think that most would agree that a loan was successful if the player was retained beyond the initial loan. So, the percentage of loanees retained after the loan concludes is a measure, not the only one, of success. The GS period displayed the most successful period for loans with 50% of loanees being retained beyond the initial loan. Perhaps, GS’s success with loans encouraged further use of this strategy. MON and TM had the least successful loan strategies with none of their loanees being retained. Of course, caution is needed when looking at TM’s reign….as he was only there for one very long season.

However, it would be unfair to judge loans purely on the basis of whither the player is retained. Loans can fix interim problems such as we have with the CB position at the moment. Some managers may use loans solely for this purpose. Benkovic is an example of this. We have very little chance of retaining him, but he is a very good player in his position so far. Similarly, our CEO may not have trusted the manager with anything other than short term loans until he proves that he is worthy of employment. TM and RD are cases in point…during each of their terms high levels of loans were used….27% and 30%. In the curious case of RD only 14% of his loans were retained and none of TM’s.

As mentioned earlier, loans are not the only method of recruiting. There is also the Bosman or “free” market. How did Celtic perform in the” free” market? Before looking at that, we should issue a government health warning. “Free” players are not free! There will be signing on payments plus payments to their agents to secure the player’s signature. However, depending upon the quality, stage of career of the recruit, it is unlikely that the signing on payment will reach the market value of the player that would be necessary to pay to another club. So, in general, we would expect “frees” to be cheaper than purchases.

MON (32%) and NL (33%) used the highest percents of “frees”, whereas RD and BR used the lowest. So, in summary, Celtic’s recruitment strategy shifted from a heavy reliance on “frees” to a reliance on loans from the year 2000 onwards. To my simple mind there are two types of “free”. The first is the “Joe Ledley” scenario where a player is out of contract and has refused to re-sign for his club. Such players have a better chance of turning out to be good acquisitions. The second type is often an older player that has been released by his club. These players carry higher risks. Their best years are behind them, but do they have one more good period in them? Yaya Toure is a current example as is Defoe over on the other side. Our record is full of players who did not have anything to offer. A few examples are: Freddie Ljundberg, Carlton Cole, Steven Mouyokolo, Rabiu Ibrahim, Olivier Kapo, Mo Camara, Michael Herbet. There are many more.

Admittedly, there is a lot of subjectivity in assessing the success/failure of a loan/free recruit. But there is clarity on players such as: Bobo Balde, Ramon Vega, even poor old Javier Broto. These players and others performed well for the club. Others such as Kenny Miller and Diomansy Kamara are more difficult to judge. Kamara played well but broke his leg during his loan. Miller blew hot and cold and went on a long run of being unable to score. I classified each loan or free into one of three categories: Fail, Question Mark, and Success. How did the managers do? Let’s leave TM out of it because he was not in position long enough.


Largely successful on loans

50-50 on frees


50-50 on loans

Mainly unsuccessful on frees


Unsuccessful with loans

50-50 on frees.


Mainly unsuccessful with loans

Mainly unsuccessful with frees


Success with loans

Unsuccessful with frees.

The above shows how difficult it is to achieve success in the market through the use of loans or frees. On the loan front, for every Craig Bellamy there are two or more Henri Camaras or Du Weis! Similarly, for every Joe Ledley there are many Freddie Ljundbergs, Andre Blackmans and Olivier Kapos. As in most walks of life, the phrase, “you get what you pay for…” applies. Loans and Frees are lower cost recruitment vehicles than purchases but success rates are low.

The percentage of outright purchases peaked during the GS reign and has shown a trend of decline since his tenure. As to why that is happening, your guess is as good as my own. Let me finish by observing that Vakoun Bayo, our latest capture is reported to have cost 2 million. What would be the equivalent of 2 million pounds back at the start of MON’s period? Roughly, it would be around 1.2 million. Back in 2000-1 we were buying David Fernandex and Ulrik Lauren for 1 million and 1.5 million respectively. A striker, Chris Sutton in those days cost us 6 million pounds…considerably more than the outlay on Bayo at 1.2 million. Hopefully, that comment does not translate directly on to the park.


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Great post Rebus – lots and lots of points in there to consider, and consider I will, and come back.

The £1.2m for a Bayo-type coming from somewhere like Slovakia, or another UK club, as you say, allowing for normal inflation, would be now around the £2m mark – which is what we have paid.

However such is the hyper-inflation in England fuelled by the TV money, players like Sutton, Hartson and Lennon would be at least £40m players nowadays (Calum Wilson – Bournemouth quoted at £75m) That trio would be on at least £60k/week each.

So today our outlay over a four year contract for three players of that calibre and reputation would be in the region of £220m including wages… pie in the sky figures for Celtic – we may get to another UEFA final, but we may also lose our final game at Motherwell and blow the league…and we would be bankrupt.


Another excellent article,received with grateful thanks and best wishes for your health.

I’d been mentally putting together something similar,but mine would have been more of a rant against our continuing over-reliance on loans. IMO,they have generally been a failure. A failure rate like that in any other company would have seen the concept binned.

Free transfers are very much a part of the scene now,post-Bosman. The problem with them is the food chain,and where we lie in it. Our league is attractive to players in lower leagues,such as Scandinavia and much of Eastern Europe,but we will continue to lose out to the bigger leagues in Western Europe.

It’s a big problem. We can eat the minnows while we wait to be devoured by the sharks and whales. And the minnows sharks and whales seem to be getting bigger while we aren’t growing at all!

I think we need some of yon growth hormone stuff,it didn’t do Lionel Messi any harm!

big packy

HI REBUS, great thought provoking post as usual hope you are well hh.

A very good read Rebus. I’m hoping you come up with a part 2 where you look a bit more into the outright purchases of the various managers.

Rolling Stone


The comparison to the English market is misguided. The English market is an animal of its own and the prices which are both demanded and paid in England are not replicated throughout world football.

Compare and contrast the spending of newly promoted EPL clubs in to newly promoted clubs in the other top 4 leagues in 2018 (and I don’t believe this statistic evidences the final position at the end of the summer window):

Celtic can still find value in the football market, but that value will not be found (with exceptions- Dembele) in the English market.

I do accept, however, that buying players of the quality of Sutton, Hartson and Lennon directly from England would easily cost over £100m in today’s market.


Hi Rolling Stone.

I agree that the EPL market is an exceptional “animal”, with regard to transfer fees.

Your reddit information is interesting and if you added in wages, new EPL clubs outlays would probably be circa £80/£100m. This means of course they are spending almost every penny they get in from TV money, currently £100m for finishing bottom.

Probably loans are now the limit of our shopping in England, unless we can unearth a gem in the lower tiers- Roberts, Benkovic and Burke are the type of deals we can countenance. Although purchases from Man City – e.g. Samaras, Boyata and Ntcham and Sinclair from Villa, have been good for us.

We have a good relationship with PSG, have had good value from the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway and are now making inroads into the USA and eastern European markets.

So I think we have the strategy right going forward, but it is not easy – some of our number think it is.



Just up on a snowy morning here in the great north. Being of a quantitative mind, I could not resist discounting the Bayo two million to the value of money in the blessed Martin’s time! I know it is not all about money. Dembele is an example of how looking at the fee paid is misleading in assessing quality. However, Dembele is the exception. Bayo may be the next Dembele or the next Fernandez, time will tell. So far, he is our only purchase and, for me, it is worrying that we are shopping at that level.




I agree that our recruitment strategy should not be focused on the English market. It is an inflated market but we are cursed by the fact that is geographically nearest. That last fact creates many problems. I liken the situation to what we face in Canada, where our nearest neighbour is the US. Most of our exports go to the US because it is far easier to deal with that market, as opposed to say, the Netherlands. Along comes a Trump and the folly of over reliance on one market becomes apparent.

We seem to be slowly expanding our horizons through Kolo Toure and links with other clubs such as PSG. It has been fruitful in the past…Wanyama and Van Dyke come to mind.

My point is that we do not need to shop in the 2 million market, we can afford to spend double that on the right players. Why increase the footballing risk? The answer is to minimise the financial risk…….and there is the rub!




That is a good idea. I toasted you at 8 pm your time throughout the holidays. Hope you felt it!



Hi Packy,

I like to provoke your thoughts! Healthwise? They discovered a B12 deficiency that could explain the lightheadedness. I am on a vitamin supplement and I have improved. Who knows if the two are connected,





On frees, I was thinking yesterday about the Boyata situation. In particular, we are on the wrong side of it! Some club is going to pick up a Belgian international for a signing on fee, plus, of course, the promise of higher wages. We shall lose an asset for nothing. These are the types of deals we should try to pick up. Trouble is how competitive can we be, given the league we play in and our relative position on wages.



Or dare I say our Newfoundman in Newfoundland !
Thats an excellent post above and your profession really shines through and that is a benefit to us all , chapeau !
So we can no longer afford the going rate in England , but can in some countries , however are increasingly beaten to the punch , bigger wages etc .

I recall a long debate with my old sparring partner over on Cqn SFTB where I tried to convince him that we could in effect become traders and use the profits to upgrade each facet of the club to its maximum , which would see us climb a level .
In effect try to become a Porto or Benfica ,, both teams that I would place in the rung above us in world football terms . POt 3 teams.

The jist of my argument was that our ass sits on top of the biggest shoppers in the world and our goods are a hit . We should foster relationships with select clubs who would trust our goods and benefit in return .
Offering the club as a springboard seems only natural , and the more times we show that route ( wanyama and virgil ) the stronger our hand . They both arrived on the found first , bought cheap , sold for good money . This route has proven successful although its becoming increasingly difficult to maintain , and TeT tells us the person responsible for both has departed now , which wont help.
We should continue to look but an upgrade of the scouting would pay for itself .

The bosman is increasingly important and although we foray into that market I dont think we play a very strong hand , or our strongest , and therefore have no really cracked that market imo. Ledley and Matthews are examples that we offered our top wage bracket due to the fact they were free and both knew it would be short term and the power lay with them ultimately so accepted , used the club to their advantage , and departed .
Ultimately we filled a position , but did not move on in the grand scheme of things .
Now if I were head honcho I would have a transfer committee put a value on a potential bosman move as if in contract and he was being punted .
For instance he was a 5 million Euro player 18 months ago but has let the contract run down and hit the market.
Our current policy would be to offer our top wage bracket if interested and a golden handshake of probably half a million to a million . While this sounds good on paper spread over the course of the contract and minus tax its not actually that much ,, a four year deal with a million dollar handshake means an extra 5 k minus tax and that wont entice a lot .
I would propose adding his 5 million value give or take to the wages and thus we are hittting players with mega offers in our terms anyway .
5 million player spread over 4 year deal is roughly 25k a week. Plus the wages we were going to offer 50 k a week or so . Add incentives and theres a new market that has opened up .
We are losing out on this market by not factoring in the bonus other clubs are offering and sticking to our standard handshake signing on bonus and existing wage bracket . Others have realised lets just factor in what he would have cost .
The other obvious issue with this system is wage disparity , the bosmans earn more . Now thats true it could become an issue but each and every player could put himself in that position should they wish .
The wool has not been pulled over anyones eyes and the club would have a policy , not on the hoof throw mud at the wall and see if it sticks .
I believe in the modern game its accepted a free transfer of quality would walk into the dressing room on top whack , just the way of the modern world , and the players will understand exactly and he wont get bad vibes due to that . Thinking hes a bigshot as he got the big bucks is different.
One big issue with this system is the player could do exactly the same to us as his previous club at the end of his contract and the club have handed out 10 million or so and have nada in return .
To offset this one could offer buy out clauses ,, gentlemans agreements that we listen to bids over 20 for example ,, use our relationships mentioned earlier in the negotiations ( look we have a special friend in Southampton and we want to use you for two years and then you will slide into their midfield ) ,, factor in a big bonus to the player if he leaves before end of contract .
Theres probably more ways but you get my drift I hope .

Thats the Bosman ,, another angle I believe we are failing to take advantage of is this special talent work permit . As the blog have been saying over our recent signings , Scotland gives out special talent dispensation for prospective employees ,, all the would be employer has to do is stand in front of a committee and state for the record that for that price he cannot get a native player that is better , thus hes a special talent that will raise the profile of the league and viola they get rubberstamped .
Thus we dont need to think about caps , we can just grab a player and big him up ,, such as Guzman and Perez now.
This is a serious head start on many markets , such as the English big spenders , and as such I would have the corners of the Earth scoured for anyone with a gift for the game .
The more obscure the better as far as Im concerned.

And then another , have we ever actually targeted a market and cracked it . Really studied it and taken the best ? No , we are on the hoof .
Scattergun I guess it could be described as . I would have us pick a market or two and really analyse it ,, a value market where our wages look very attractive , and remember we can have any player we want regardless of caps . Korea springs to mind as does the US and how about the leagues top scorers native homeland ,, Columbia .
We dont crack markets , and I would change that .

But hey ,, what a cracking read Rebus ! Many thanks and Hail Hail



Mein Gott! You have an idea every two seconds! I’d like to share a pint at some time and just chat. What worries me is can we assume that this type of brain storming going on at the club?

I am at a stage where I am considering whether to continue supporting the club via CelticTV because of a wide variety of factors. These include the institutional bias towards the club; the lack of a pro-active response to issues that affect the club in the public domain; the current management of the balance between football performance and financial performance. Just waiting out the current CEO and Board does not seem a viable strategy for the th8nking supporter because what would come next.

I have cut back on the number of blogs that I read because of the constant negativity and conspiracy theories that are floated. So far, this blog is nuanced(I like the sound of that word!) in its presentations.

Here in my adopted country I am mercifully shielded from a lot of the media slant. If that was not the case, I would have defected to junior football sometime ago. Although, even there, there is bigotry.


Sorry a bit off topic, but I’m really enjoying watching the masters snooker since Sunday evening. It’s the first time I’ve watched snooker in ages and many of the players are new to me.

A wee smile came to my face last night when I realised that I was enjoying a competition where cheating referees is not an issue!

And also, Irish players or players with Irish sounding names are not thought any the less for that.


Pints sound great indeed and should you be planning a visit home try for September pls. Looking like a Hoot is on the cards . Whether a game is involved or not I have no idea , thats in Majocs hands .
Perhaps you go to the conventions , Vegas or Toronto ?

Perhaps it is evident through my posts Im bored , so yes thoughts and ideas do tend to flow . In your prime as I am with 45 hours of goo goo gaa gaa and a big dog that is upset his exercise has decreased since little thing with the tasty drool arrived , the blog can either benefit or suffer . Hopefully its more the former than latter .

I was just fighting with myself whether to post on Cqn regards Duffers line in an interview he just gave “ Growing up I supported Celtic and Man United “.
I fail to see why he mentioned united at all in that sentence and grammatically there was no need to . He could have said I supported Celtic growing up and still been correct.
He has shown west coast britness already without being prompted , 10 days or so into the job.
His major shareholder might quite like his choice of teams though , are they not his picks also ?

Anyway ,, Celtictv got binned quite a few years ago . It was very hit and miss and then youre missing the most important games of the season , Europe .
There is a dodgy website that has some Spl games about a day later but that doesnt really suit me anymore , waiting for time to sit down and catch up before you can go on the blogs or check emails or whatever. Thats backfired before so now I dont tend to watch much games at all
Hence I try to look at the game in a broader scope . Plus as Scottish football is bad for your blood pressure ,,,,
Saltires en Seville has walked away from Celtic , the good chap that he is. The Plcs lose . but every fans as well as one fan could tempt ten more into the family . Lord knows how many I have converted but its a few at least .

I constantly struggle with punishing the club , your club , for the actions of the suits but when the alternative is to play along and prolong the charade then nah .
The blogs though are different in that its a lot more than just footie talk ,, its a little link to home and other expats ,, a cyber community if you will . They also provide a great platform to get the feel of someones character so for instance should a blogger need votes , or even the Res12 situation , where you know the names involved and that his aims are true to what your vision is , then its easier to sell if youve been seeing that name and have interacted , rather than a stranger.
Ultimately , a very popular blog could influence elections , at a local level and up . Thats a power I have yet to see harnessed . A fine example of that would be supporters coordinating to get someone on the GCC so as when the parking issue comes up theres a voice of reason .
However , and Majoc points this out , blogs have had their day probably as in we will never see the numbers there used to be . Its primarily because it was new and novel that they exploded , now its expats and older gents mostly I believe.
Thus to keep a blog interesting many viewpoints rather than one help a lot .

Anyway you know when you have a question and you can just google it ,, well ive been trying not to do that and come u with the answer myself ,, but its killing me .
World war two war movie were Charles Bronson dresses as a german officer and attends a party behind enemy lines . You know the name ?


I notice you said competition ,, was that intention ? Are you saying its not a sport ? 😉
I recall a list in the bar of ” unfit ” mens sports and darts and snooker topped that list . Golf can be lazy if you drive the cart not walk . Theres quite a few sports were one must not be fit !
Hope youre well pal , Hail Hail

Yes it was intentional Mahe ! Much as I love snooker it’s a bit of a push to call it a sport. Darts likewise. There has to be a line or else Monopoly & Ludo might sneak in.

Mike in Toronto


Dirty dozen, perhaps?

A thing of beauty

Quality article Rebus and I salute your efforts in putting it all together. I get very frustrated and have debated the point with gold recently, about the lack of money we spend on players and your article seems to agree with this. Conversely in my more calm moments I realise that we cannot spend the £6-7m that I feel we could spend on a player because it gets you hee haw from down south and players from other leagues whose clubs will accept our money, don’t want to come. We are viewed as a backwater only a level above the Scandinavian league. Chuck in the fact that it’s MMA without the cage and you can understand why players won’t come. It’s a conundrum which keeps me awake at times. I cannot see where we progress. I’ll always support Celtic and hopefully continue to attend games but the prospect of fighting it out with the Huns for evermore whilst being an ever diminishing European team is not a mouth watering prospect.

big packy

MAHE, hate to disagree coz your my bruv ,but I don’t think blogs like yours will ever die out, I remember 20 years ago, if you wanted any news on celtic you had to phone a number, and it was so much a minute, so when the blogs came along it was a godsend, incidentally the guy that done the celtic news was called terry mcgeadie,don’t know if he was related to aidan, anyway hope you are well bruv take care.hh.


BigPacky, indeed am well thank you.
Blogs will continue but they won’t hit the numbers they used to. 15k hits a day was claimed for cqn once upon a time. I don’t think that will happen again for any Celtic fans blog.
A premium line number for gossip, ouch indeed. Majoc would be a millionaire 😉
Hail Hail


MiT,,,I think you’ve got it. Where eagles dare springs to mind. One day and google.
Cheers pal. Hope you’re good. Hail Hail



Not sure what my travel plans are for this year. I have two sons and their families descending on is in July-August. I’d like to visit Scotland early in the year. I have never been to a Celtic Convention.nwhat ate they like?

I think it was the “Dirty Dozen” for the Bronson movie. “Death Hunt” is my favourite Bronson movie, starring Lee Marvin as well.




Thanks for reading the opus. Sometime, just sometimes, a club can be truly innovative in the transfer market. When that happens it can totally change the performance of the club. Even a club that is not the top club in its league can be transformed by an innovative approach. One such club was Morton in the sixties and seventies. The owner/operator-of that club was a certain Hal Stewart. He knew that his club could not compete with the transfer fees paid by teams like Celtic, Rangers, Dundee etc. So he tapped into the Scandinavian markets where the players were amateurs. He started an influx of Danes, Norwegians and Swedes into Scottish football. Players such as Kai Johansson, Eric Sorensen who were later purchased by Rangers. Orjan Persson, a Swede who played for Dundee United. Preben Arntoft, a stylish midfield player, who later played in the English top flight for Newcastle and Blackburn.

These players, for little cost, transformed Morton into a very competitive team. Ultimately, they made a small fortune when they sold these players on.

We need to find some innovative recruitment strategy like this to transform the club. Is there an Eastern European market that we can use as a feeder system, or perhaps, a small African nation? Not easy to find and utilise, but a sure winner if we can unearth such a supply.



John James site today, said James Forest ‘s Celtic Blog had 12,200 yesterday.
I’ve no idea if this is factual.
Hail Hail



I well understand your frustrations, however, we are where we are. It is not in our power to move ourselves from this, quote, “backwater” and therefore we either do a Belfast Celtic, or, in the words of Winston, “keep buggering on”. I’m for the latter.

Remember only some 10% of clubs in Europe can qualify for the group’s of either, the CL, or EL. We are doing this regularly – being in the top 10% in Europe is not bad for a team from the backwaters.

You talk about “fighting it out with the huns”, wasn’t it always so – even in our European glory years, they were our biggest domestic opponent.

Because the rich elite have moved away from us in the last ten years, doesn’t mean we curl up and die – I am sure that there will be a realignment in Europe which will benefit clubs like Celtic, perhaps a UK wide premier league without the big six from England, or maybe a pan-European League with clubs from Scandinavia, Holland, Belgium, Portugal, Austria, Switzerland, Croatia, Serbia, Austria, Czech Rep ….etc. We just have to wait for the opportunity, and keep solvent, strong and winning domestically.

Let’s not get frustrated and ‘throw tge baby out with the bathwater’.HH


Rebus, never been to any convention. It does seem a bit strange to me but who am I to judge.
I just wanna meet and raise pints with the bloggers we converse with.
Me and sunshine aren’t friends and I certainly don’t do pool parties. And dinner dances seem like something you read about from the past. Certainly not what a lot of sunburnt drunks need.
I dont really mix drink and food, thats all yanks do ffs. Vegas in June I would generally avoid.
But in saying that there’s always good craic when Hoops meet up.
Hail Hail


New Article Posted!


In fairness,James wrote a kite-flying exercise re McKenna,apparently attributed to an über-trustworthy source. None of what he said has since been confirmed.

E-Tims runs an occasional series which it calls The Rumour Mill. It has the decency to point out at the start that what you are about to read is unadulterated made-up pish. It’s also very funny.

Me,I’ll stick to facts,rants and opinions. My memory isn’t good enough to remember made-up stuff.