Kieran Tierney will undergo a medical today ahead of his expected move to Arsenal. The deal, reportedly for £25m plus a 10 per cent sell-on fee, will bring an end to the transfer saga of the season, with the Gunners finally getting their man.
Invested properly, the money should enable Celtic to stave off any domestic threat to their title.
Disappointingly, Celtic have seemed happy to get the cash (a record sum in Scotland, but one dwarfed by fees paid for modest players down south). They haven’t made a single public utterance, at board level at least, about doing everything possible to keep the player.
Tierney himself will get upwards of £70k a week and footballers, as professionals, follow the money. He was already a rich young man, but while it’s tempting to say that he could have stayed for 9 and 10 before making the move at the age of 23 or 24, this is real money in the hand rather than a possibility down the line.
Many of us believed Tierney would be a one-club man, but the player leaves before fans get a chance to see just how good he can be.
Henrik Larsson’s best years were spent at Celtic Park, opting to remain at Parkhead despite interest from suitors including Manchester United.
The Old Trafford side were prepared to pay £10m to prise him away from Glasgow, but Larsson had taken the club to his heart.
Scott Brown is another who joined the club and stayed the course.
Signing as a promising youngster from Hibs, Brown is now one of the most decorated Celts of all time and looks like he’ll be wearing hoops until the day he hangs up his boots.
The increasingly influential James Forrest, who has previously attracted interest from top English sides including Spurs, has said he would like being a one-club man.
Tierney’s exit means he leaves as one of the great ‘what ifs’ of Celtic.
Having been at Celtic since a boy, and breaking into the side under Ronny Deila in 2015, Tierney has gone from skinny a skinny Bhoy with heaps of potential to a left-sided powerhouse.
Tierney had seemed a dead cert to be in the team that went for nine and, hopefully, ten in a row.
Money talks in today’s football, though.
Celtic obviously can’t compete with the cash on offer in the EPL, but the club sill does have a unique pull for many players content to ply their trade in Scotland, rather than the glitz and glamour of England.
Unfortunately, for fans, that unique pull wasn’t enough to keep a Celtic-daft youngster interested in being part of what would have been a piece of club history.
Tierney may believe that, as part of a treble Treble winning side, he’d achieved everything he could at Celtic, but for fans it’s all about the target that lies ahead.
His departure isn’t a surprise. Aside from the long, drawn-out saga of the summer, the player was also close to moving to Everton last year.
In the end, a move to Goodison Park failed to materialise and Tierney was back in the Hoops. He remained as committed as you would expect in a season hampered by injury, but the megaphone capers seemed a little hollow for someone who was pushing for a move (or at least his ‘advisors’ were).
Fans will now lose out on watching one of our own reaching his peak in the green and white jersey.
His legacy will be the money he brings in to help rebuild the side. If it’s invested properly, and quickly, Celtic’s domination should continue. But that’s a big if.
Fans will get over Tierney as they did another youngster who showed great promise, Aiden McGeady.
The club got two years more out of the Irish international, who left at 24 for a record fee of £9.5m.
And Tierney, as good as he is, won’t leave a hole in the side like Kenny Dalglish. Replacing him won’t be easy, but it won’t be the gut punch that Liverpool delivered when they took Dalglish in 1977.
Tierney, like Dalglish, will be leaving for ambition too. Like it or not, an Arsenal side that has failed to win the league in 15 years will be seen as more ambitious to the player.
In some ways, it’s hard to argue. When we lost by record scorelines in Europe, a failure to invest had seen us playing the likes of Gamboa against Bayern Munich, Bitton at centre half (he might fill in in an emergency, but he is not a natural centre half and we will lose soft goals as a result) and the teenage Ralston pitched in against Neymar.
Losing heavily wasn’t just down to Rodgers’ tactical inflexibility on that stage. We also lost heavily under Lennon (we lost 5 out of 6 in the Champions League in his last season, including a hammering in the Nou Camp).
When we were getting cuffed off PSG and Barcelona under Rodgers, I did think that there would be players who wouldn’t want to be part of such humblings. At the time I thought the likes of Dembele would angle for a move. It didn’t cross my mind that Tierney might be one of those, also.
But, why not?
If the board don’t show ambition for the club to make a positive mark on the European stage, players will look to a club that does have a go, relative to its budget.
Celtic are as financially secure as we’ve ever been. We have not needed to sell Tierney or any other player first before getting in a replacement. Yet going from last year’s squad, where we at times had barely enough players to field a side at Ibrox, we have now lost most of our first choice defence, with rumours that Jozo could be next.
The replacements aren’t sufficient. The window might close at the end of August, but we could be out of the Champions League by then, for starters, and facing Rangers at Ibrox on 1 September.
We have the money for Armstrong, Dembele and the VVD windfall, not to mention the compensation package for Rodgers (which will have paid for most of this summer’s new players on it’s own) as well as getting over 10 players’ wages off the books.
This is a ridiculous gamble for the club once again. Not just in the usual European qualification arena, but we have massively weakened for the domestic challenge. A 7-0 win against St Johnstone was a great day out, but the state of the opposition needs to be considered.
Celtic must act now. With a lot of our targets already gone to new clubs, we’re down to a smaller pool of players to go for, with time running out.
Fans are used to seeing a last-minute loan scramble after hearing how “we tried, but it’s difficult”.
With the balance sheet taking greater precedence than ever over the team, this can’t be allowed to happen again.
As for Tierney, as disappointing as it is, bringing players through and selling them on is part of Celtic’s transfer model. If it wasn’t happening, at some level people would be saying the investment in youth was a failure.
Unfortunately for those who thought Tierney would be captain for 9 and 10 in a row, this is how it now works. And with players often driving for the move themselves, there’s often nothing the club can do but get the best deal possible.
Celtic fans will find themselves a new hero, as they always do.
For Tierney, he misses out on becoming the genuine Celtic legend that had once seemed his destiny.