That Time Of The Year…
This is the time of year when football fans get antsy about how to fill the long barren weeks until the new season begins,but it is hardly one where everyone in the game puts the boots away and gets on the sun lounger beside the pool. For many,it is a time of big decisions-and some very difficult ones.
For a lot of players,there is the question of where they will be playing next year. Indeed,for many,it is a question of simply hoping that they will be playing somewhere,anywhere,at all next year,that someone will come in for them and offer them a contract. For managers,it is about who they want to be at the club next season,who should be let go or made available for transfer or a loan,and who should be signed to strengthen the squad.
As this is a Celtic site,I will deal mainly with the issues facing Ange Postecoglu. I’ll leave our main rivals to swither over their own future,asking ridiculous fees for journeymen players while lowballing their regulars when negotiating contract extensions. AP has already allowed-or maybe advised?-two long-serving players to leave,with Nir Bitton and Tom Rogic bowing out on a high with another championship medal. He has also seen the exciting prospect Ben Doak leave for Liverpool at the tender age of 16yo. I wish them all well,but while of the three only Tom Rogic will be missed by me,I’m afraid I won’t be following their future careers with much interest.
I see in the departures of TR and NB a recognition by Ange that,despite an incredibly successful first season,his task of rebuilding the club is still very much a work in progress. Indeed,Neil Lennon,fresh from leading his new club to a Cypriot Cup success,even offered some advice on the issue. Perhaps had Lennon been willing to listen to anyone two and three years ago,there wouldn’t have been such a mess left behind for Ange to deal with. But deal with it,he most certainly has. So far.
Many of the players who are highly unlikely to feature under AP are in possession of lucrative contracts,on terms that they are unlikely to receive elsewhere. And that is a problem in anyone’s book. The board will need to offer these players a significant sum to induce them to seek employment elsewhere,but it is a sum worth paying to avoid having unhappy players occupying a dressing room and spreading discontent.
And there’s a few contenders of that description in our current squad! All of them are decent enough players-after all,they have to be just that to play at any level at all. Many are even internationalists,and have had successful careers previously elsewhere. Few,if any,can complain at not being in the manager’s future plans,not if they are judged solely on their performances in The Hoops. So who do I think that the manager will be having painful discussions with shortly? Surprisingly,it might not be as many as you think.
Let’s start from back to front. Vasiliy Barkas has been an unmitigated disaster in his time at Celtic Park,and I doubt anyone can say otherwise. A £5m signing and a regular in the Greek side,his displays have left his confidence and his reputation in pieces. His priority should be to rescue and rebuild his career at a different club,rather than hang around and become a forgotten man. Indeed,that last sentence probably applies across the board to all of the players mentioned here. And as with the rest of them,I doubt that Celtic will be difficult to deal with regarding a fee. The difficult part might be negotiating the severance terms. Players and upper management will have to be realistic,an alien concept so often in football these days.
Bolingoli won’t even be offered a squad number when he returns,and if he is still at the club in September,it will be for foolish reasons career-wise,cutting off his own nose to spite his face. I can see him doing it too. The only difference between him and Jullien is that the latter will still have his squad number,but will have relatively similar chances of making a matchday squad. Personally,I would rather offer the chance of a return to Simunovic than play him.
In midfield,the only player who can truly be termed surplus to requirements is Ismael Soro. Or The Sorrowful Mystery,as I’ve heard him termed. He hasn’t been a failure at Celtic,as such. But he has been horribly unlucky with injuries whenever he got the chance at a first-team place. The irony being that he would be booked for his first tackle,then stretchered off after a tackle by an opponent! Again,for the sake of his career he has to move on. I also think that applies to Michael Johnston,but I’m willing to give this highly skilled youngster another year to make the grade. He will have to do so,initially at least,from the bench,so the deck is stacked against him already. It will be no surprise to see him move this summer. A move next summer is a certainty if he again fails to impress.
Up front,and the prime candidate is Albion Ajeti. Although his career at Celtic started well,that is as far as it got. I’ll say no more. Possibly a surprise addition to the list is Karamoko Dembele,a player for whom we had high hopes indeed. Especially if you were lucky enough to witness him at St Kevin’s in Dublin. That was an Under-16 tournament involving teams from the likes of Barcelona,Lyon and Anderlecht. Dembele won Player of the Tornament-as a 13yo! Truly,a star is born. Or so we thought. Yes,his lack of stature has not done him any favours,but Liel Abada-only a few months older,btw-is the same height but grabbed his chance with both hands! Karamoko is out of contract,and the club have offered him a new deal but he has not yet accepted it. Two years ago,I would have been distraught,but now? Not so much.
So that’s a maximum of seven players from the squad whose future,I think,lies elsewhere. Testament,I’d say,to the work already done last summer by Ange and Dom. It was a good start,but it is time to finish the job and concentrate on the future. That future will consist of the players already at the club and judged by AP to be of the required quality and temperament. And it will surely also include some new signings to bolster the squad in some vital areas. Which will be a topic in the very near future.
Above article by BMCUWP