You could just about count on the fingers of one finger the games in which Olivier Ntcham excelled last season.
The midfielder put in a storming shift against Rangers at the start of September, just after the transfer window had closed and a move to Porto didn’t materialise.
Ntcham bossed the game, his passing tore Rangers to shreds and he capped an outstanding display with the winning goal, tucking away James Forrest’s pass after an 80-yard sprint up the pitch.
Neither his performance nor his celebration hinted at his disappointment at not following Moussa Dembele out the door.
Twelve days later, in Celtic’s next league match, an erratic night against St Mirren in Paisley ended with him being red-carded in the first half.
Perhaps the difference in relative performance in a ‘big game’ against Rangers, compared to lower league opposition in St Mirren, can be found in Ntcham’s own words.
French sports newspaper, L’Equipe, quotes Ntcham as saying that in Scotland many matches were not at a “high level”.
He said: “Celtic brought me a lot, it’s the best solution for my development. Games came one after another but, with all due respect for my opponents, if the level isn’t high, you don’t progress.
“I was disappointed, I didn’t go to Porto last summer.”
He continued: “Germany, France, Spain… Going back to France, it would be great.
“Marseille? It’s flattering. OM is a very big club with a very big support. If I went to Marseille, I would bloom.
“I always played in clubs with massive support.”
The problem for Ntcham or any other footballer is that moves to big clubs come on the back of being consistently impressive.
Ntcham has the potential to be Celtic’s best midfielder, but he’s erratic. His performance in the 3-0 away win against Anderlecht encapsulated that perfectly.
In the first half hour, he was abject, gifting possession under no pressure, passing the ball out the park when there was no one near him, and generally looking all at sea.
Then a stunning ball to Tierney, who set up Griffiths for the opening goal, paved the way for a storming hour in Brussels.
There is obviously a player there that could be developed into an outstanding talent. It was clear to see in his first season at Celtic.
His range of passing is fantastic when it comes off, he’s strong, and he’s good for goals from outside the box. But without the attitude to do it in every game, as happened last season, he might find it a struggle to get to where he wants to be.
He’s gone from a player who celebrated a goal in the double Treble final with a backflip, to one who apparently thought the treble Treble celebrations a year later were a bit of a fuss over nothing.
Meanwhile, no one appears to be battering down Celtic’s door to land Ntcham and it’s no surprise after last year. Who is going to spend big on a player who could be the outstanding player in the country, but who often can’t get a run of games in the team?
Now, with those comments to L’Equipe, it looks as if Ntcham may have stepped up a gear in his bid to work his ticket out of the club.
Fans obviously want to see great footballers in their side, but the most important thing is to know that, if the team get beat, everyone gave 100% in the jersey.
It’s no shame to lose a game of football if you’ve given everything you have and the people who pay the inflated salaries of footballers deserve that at the very least.
If Ntcham had done that, not only would Porto have met the asking price last year, but he may well have gone to a top club in one of those leagues he mentions, such as Germany or Spain.
The reason he didn’t progress won’t be found in the level of the opposition in Scotland, where other players have prospered just fine. With all due respect, it will be found in the mirror.