Celtic has 60 million problems and a right-back is just one of them

As Celtic’s struggle to find a replacement for Mikael Lustig rolls on, the right-back issue is just one of a number of key areas the club needs to address in an inflated market.

Whether permanent or loans, the guts of £60m worth of talent headed for the Parkhead exit in the summer.

Most of those players were deemed surplus to requirements, or simply not good enough, but the fact they’re commanding those kind of transfer fees must put a shiver through the Celtic beancounters.

Oliver Burke, nice chap that he was, had the first touch of a drunk shoplifter. West Brom forked out £15m for the Scot from Leipzig, who had themselves paid in the region of £13m for him.

Admittedly, he did give the club a boost when he arrived, as did Timothy Weah on loan from PSG.

The American showed in flashes what he could do, but his departure ahead of the Scottish Cup Final put paid to any notion that he would be back for another year on loan, far less follow in Odsonne Edouard’s footsteps by signing a permanent deal.

He has since moved to Lille in a deal worth a reported £9m.

Defensive flop Jeremy Toljan has agreed to a loan move from Borussia Dortmund to Italian side Sassuolo. The deal will cost the Seria A club £2m, with a further £5m payable if they wish to make it permanent.

Making a better impression in the side was Filip Benković, who Leicester spent £13m on.

The big centre-back’s season was curtailed due to injury and it looks as if he’ll be remaining in the East Midlands, having wished his former Celtic teammates all the best for the new season.

Fellow central defender Dedryck Boyata left for free, with the club reportedly turning down a £9m bid for him last year.

The difficulty is finding players who can contribute as much as, or more, than the above, without blowing that kind of money.

Last season, Aberdeen wanted £10m for Scott McKenna and that sums up the problem in a way. The player has some good attributes but hasn’t looked able to step up a notch when playing for Scotland.

It’s unlikely that he’s good enough for Celtic and certainly not at that price. However, Aberdeen hold all the aces with him on a long contract. If the player moves to England, one good season down there could see him go from raw prospect to someone out of our reach.

With players such as Jack Stacey and Tommy Smith being valued at £4m and above, what price a young and fit Lustig these days? 

In fact, what price an ageing Lustig? It’s one thing wishing to see fresh faces but after losing out on Stacey, and with Smith seemingly heading for Stoke, we appear to be working our way down our list of options pretty quickly.

Neil Lennon
Neil Lennon is facing an inflated transfer market

Last year’s target Timothy Castagne is reported to be interesting ‘several’ EPL clubs, which would put us at a serious disadvantage if we wanted to go back there.

Rumoured interest in Kilmarnock’s Stephen O’Donnell, Sheffield United’s George Baldock and Peter Ankerson from Copenhagen has failed to turn into anything solid, and attention has turned to Israel.

Hatem Abd Elhamed from Hapoel Be’er Sheva is heavily linked with a move to Glasgow. At 28 and having just won his first international cap, it’s to be hoped the defender is a late developer.

Of course, Celtic have the returning Leigh Griffiths to boost our attacking options, as well as Ryan Christie. We are looking for a fourth striker and with injured Bayo only appearing in a brief cameo since his signing, hopefully that will be addressed.

Nir Bitton is back after a long layoff and Lennon has big plans for him, while the emergence of Mikey Johnston, Ewan Henderson and Karamoko Dembele will give the manager options.

Those players will save the manager a few quid, but there remains the problem right-back slot. Not only do we have to find an able replacement for the madcap Swede, but also someone to challenge him.

We have lost three players capable of playing there, in Gamboa, Lustig and Toljan and have only Ralston left.

At centre-back, Jullien is a welcome addition, but he fills the gap left by either Benkovic or Boyata, so another stopper is required. Hatem Abd Elhamed can play there as well as right-back, but he can’t be in two places on the pitch at once.

Left-back is another area that could require attention. It remains to be seen where Bolingoli-Mbombo will feature in the long run, but while Tierney continues his rehabilitation that’s where he’ll play for now.

Tierney’s future is still up in the air. However, with recent positive noises coming from his agent, it may be that we avert a major problem.

It would be good to think that, learning from the difficulty in landing a decent new right-back in recent seasons, the club are taking all precautions for another raid from Arsenal, once they cash in their coin jars and turn their couches upside down.

As we know from the departing faces, money doesn’t always get you value in today’s market, not least if we continue to shop in England.

That’s the battle that Celtic, even with our relative financial muscle in Scotland, has to face and win. It may mean us heading towards more loan deals once the English market closes in a month’s time.


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