Bologna and player development


Bologna are fifth in Serie A after 19 games.  If they finish higher than seventh, this will be their best season since 1970-71.  18 months ago, they signed Lewis Ferguson (son of Derek) from Aberdeen for €2m.  The 24-year-old is now a star in Italy, attracting a Transfermarkt value of €18m.  Their squad is dominated by players in their early and mid-20s, who in Scotland would be called ‘projects’ but at Bologna it’s just regarded as a normal way to build a club.

Now they want to sign 18-year-old Celtic winger, Rocco Vata (son of Rudi).  Rocco is out of contract in the summer, so is able to sign a pre-contract and has had only a handful of substitute opportunities since making his Celtic debut a year ago.

Two Celtic managers have worked with Rocco and despite a period of injury crisis this season, he has not been given a platform.  Do Bologna see something we don’t?  It’s possible, but that question misses the point.  Rocco is 18, it’s what happens next that is more important than whatever innate talent he has.

We use the word ‘potential’ to describe young players all the time, without attributing the developmental responsibility the club has in delivering that potential.  Great young players fail to make it for various reasons, not least of all a lack of opportunity to work in a conducive environment.  Look at Liam Scales, a different injury crisis rescued him from forever being associated with the word “Darvel”.

Will Rocco get first team exposure and flourish like Lewis Ferguson, or will he spend the next three years learning a language while playing in empty stadiums with the occasional loan period?  The breakthrough odds on a teenager making it in the game are ridiculously low, but at Bologna he would be moving to a club that understands how their role in development better than most.

Celtic largely target players a few years older than Rocco, the early 20s are our hot spot (the stage Lewis Ferguson was when he left Aberdeen).  Most, like Nawrocki, Lagerbielke, Tilio, Palma, Yang and Holm are usually first team players in comparable leagues.  This is where we need to operate, there is no other viable development play for the club.

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  1. You’re right, there is no other viable development play for the club but the fundamental difference between us and Bologna is we are expected to win league titles every year.

  2. We are led to believe Lawwell only works one day a week, for a paltry remuneration, that’s why we are slow at bringing new players in…..

  3. In the last few days we’ve read that we need to sign projects and Scales can play left-back.



    Gently managing the expectations of this window perhaps?

  4. Paul 67,



    Disagree. Use the domestic cups to develop our homegrown youngsters. This is viable.



    The league and European football are our priorities.




  5. Imagine being our head of recruitment knowing that no matter how much dross you sign, you can call on the manager to develop them. If they fail to make the grade, the manager is at fault.



    Zero accountability, zero responsibility. What a nice wee number.

  6. GlassTwoThirdsFull on

    Why can’t/don’t we bring our own young players through? We spend/waste millions on players from other leagues who we know nothing about and may not even adapt, let alone prove to be any good.

  7. Bologna DON’T have to win EVERY game, huge difference. If the huns get the Belgium striker from Turkey as well as Silva , we know its short term ism and very expensive….but the difference is they do it …because there is a big pot of gold waiting…£68 million these players were worth at one time …this isn’t dessers and lammers …and god knows how much the SMSM will love it.


    My point being…sometimes there is nothing wrong with a short term fix as long as it’s quality…..there’s a big world out there

  8. CARPETCRAWLER on 10TH JANUARY 2024 12:06 PM


    “You’re right, there is no other viable development play for the club but the fundamental difference between us and Bologna is we are expected to win league titles every year.”



    Yes, but to counter balance that difference we are by far the strongest club/company in our league and can go out and buy international players for every position so we should be able to marry both our ambitions (domestically at least) with our signing / development model.



    For me, had we done the right thing in 2012 and seen the rules applied (and Spartans or another club/company with 3 years accounts had joined the league) then our development environment would actually be more conductive for our model in that we would not have a suicidal neighbour engaging in another arms race.



    I guess we want the “best” of both worlds where we have them (for the OF season ticket sales – 10K difference?) but hope to see them sufficiently neutered via FFP; assuming they don’t win this league then double down again.




  9. onenightinlisbon on

    The sheyster Lawwell will be happy that even if the huns win their two games in hand we are still top of the league. Why spend money when we don’t need to? Same as it ever was…..

  10. AT from last article,



    I am not specifically blaming Kenny MacAskill for the PO scandal in Scotland. I am pointing out that he was the Justice Secretary at the time and I agree with his comment about the conspiracy of silence.



    Without fear or favour I want politicians of all persuasions, civil servants, CEO,s IT ” experts” and especially lawyers who knew they were prosecuting innocent people brought to task.



    It is not OK for lawyers to state they were just doing their job, it is on a par with just obeying orders.




  11. So we should have signed Lewis Ferguson then? He seemed quite delighted scoring against Newco.


    The last 3 paragraphs seem to doubt value of any Youth Policy at Celtic, as we have to win every week.


    First team experience must be gained elsewhere first?

  12. bournesouprecipe on




    What’s keeping Bologna? why does it take this long for them to complete their signings?

  13. Imagine comparing Celtic to Bologna. Good grief, Paul. Bologna have ZERO expectancy to win the league and ZERO expectancy to even make a European place. No point going over old conversations but alas you make it impossible not to Paul.



    There are several ways to build a squad. We’ve had repeated ex-Celts telling us how hard it is to sign players in January and when you look at who we signed last January I think that is supported – Johnston aside.



    Poor recruitment has resulted in a bloated squad, full of players that were NEVER going to be good enough to develop. See Johnny Kenny and Tillio as examples.



    We need to move at least ten on in the next two windows (but nearer fifteen). Four of five need brought in over those two windows that are truly first team players. Every player you sign can not be just out of school.



    But, we are back to the same tired conversation.



    No other side in the league has as good as CCV, Mcgregor, O’Riley, Hatate and Kyogo but we have weaknesses in other areas. See GK, See LB, See Striker. We also have several wingers but I wouldn’t hang my hat on any of them.

  14. glendalystonsils on

    I doubt very much if Rocco Vata was expecting to become a first team fixture at age 18 . However, a reasonably regular place on the bench and a reasonable number of 30ish minute appearances in games might have encouraged him to think there was light at the end of the Celtic tunnel .


    It would be very sad to think that we may never see another 18/19 year old emerge from the Parkhead ranks to excite us in the first team .

  15. Paul 67,



    Rico Lewis 18 years Man City


    Julio Enciso 19 years Brighton.


    Alejandro Garnacho. 19 years. Man Utd.


    Evan Ferguson 18 years Brighton



    There are loads of other teenagers playing in the richest league in the world.



    If they are good enough, they are old enough. Ultimately you only find out if you play them and subsequently an Academy is no use if it doesn’t produce.




  16. First Hickey now Ferguson, they should give us all cause to think about what’s on our own doorstep.



    Neither seemed good enough to improve us but both were clearly young enough to develop into much better players in the right environment and with the right commitment from everyone at the club. Better coaching, a more technical league, different expectations and an environment where you can get on and learn your craft away from petty us and them squabbling every time you walk out your front door. And importantly regular first team football against all sorts of teams of different standards playing different ways. A proper footballing education in a foreign country where you can grow as a person



    You could probably add John McGinn to the list – a bit older so probably seen as someone who didn’t have as much development in him. Seen as good enough to be back up but not a starter, he developed in the championship and became a very important player for a top epl team.



    It’s not always the case – we remember Hickey and Ferguson but forget about Doig and Porteus and Gauld. We’ve got first hand experience in Jack Hendry who appears to have become a player who could do a job for us after he was at Celtic where he showed he couldn’t.



    The point about Bologna not needing to win is very valid – Luis Palma was written off by some of our fans after 15 minutes of football. Young men in a new foreign country away from their families aren’t all built to deal with that sort of pressure so early in their careers. Your debut will always be in a must-win game, the support have sympathy for you before and after but not in the stadium. to thrive you need careful handling.

  17. OK great we have now to follow Bologna – a yoyo team that has spent more time in 2nd division than the 1st over the past 30 yrs…………..brilliant.


    As our host trolls the world to hold up examples (current) of what we should be doing trying to justify a tired policy that provides little or no forward momentum.


    I don’t know anyone that wants us to blow the budget on x,y or z player but save for our host a few followers but i don’t know anyone that doesn’t seek a balance of youth/projects and experience and know qualities as a sensible way forward.



  18. MOISEY17 on 10TH JANUARY 2024 12:58 PM



    I think Paul67 agrees that we need a mix of both, but getting the development side of things right is both extremely important and very difficult.



    He’s not suggesting we adopt an identical model to them, but more that we learn from their success so we can do our development player acquisition and development better.

  19. Scottish players clearly have something that young Italian players might be lacking, I guess the hope is that if they’re young enough they can improve in the areas that Italian players are better



    The same should be true with players we sign. Sign youngsters with the technical ability we don’t seem to be able to have in our young players and help them develop the more physical side of their game

  20. So that is it then no big signings, no 1st team ready with experience signings.



    you heard straight from Paul67 who is obviously telling us what Mr Liewell told him.



    D :)

  21. Ange seems to be much more open with the media in England than he was with the Scottish media, although it doesn’t stop him having a bit of fun at their expense



    In one of his pressers recently he was talking about signings and he said that in his opinion there wasn’t much difference between the players ability at the top level but what really made the difference was the attitude and mentality and that always made up a big part of his thinking when he was looking at a player to sign. It’s even more of an unknown with a young man from a different culture, it might explain why he’s been keen to sign players from Japan and South Korea and you would definitely hope it would be a big consideration for us now



    He’s signing Timo Werner which has been laughed at in England but he’s probably sitting at home having a chuckle to himself, or more likely completely unaware of the noise

  22. spikeysauldman on

    so far this week..



    no new left back cos we have a guy who has a left foot, probably writes with his left hand too (a bonus) and we should just ignore the fact that GT has been poor for most of the season.



    we wont be spending any big money cos murray, whyte, green et al ransacked rangers and they went bust (surprised we didnt highlight IT issues at celtic park and look whats happening to the Post Office)



    we got lucky selling a guy we never played – maybe we should try that with some others – thats even more cunning than our usual ploys



    and forget about our youths – we wont get any big fees for them – so just let them go



    its all about the projects

  23. Jack Hendry like many others playing for Celtic seen by many Celtic fans and not being good enough to play for the club ,Celtic fans fall into the trap feeding the hun media about how bad our players are ,no wonder there confidence goes ,I say give every player that comes to our a chance not in a few games,Take Lagerbieke for instance a very good player in Sweden plays a few games get injured,all of a sudden he is a dud ,in my opinion he is a good player ,if there is to be criticism then I think we should be looking at the ones that run the club ,and that includes Rogers .

  24. TIMBHOY163 on 10TH JANUARY 2024 1:45 PM



    It’s a good point, although I’m not sure there does need to be criticism of anyone.



    For me I thought Hendry didn’t have the mentality to play for Celtic and our results when he did start were really poor, but it might have been something he could have developed in time. Doing alright for himself now though, if playing in Saudi floats your boat

  25. I dont have any opinion on Gustaf as I haven’t seen him play often enough to come to a conclusion, likewise Nawrocki, Iwata is injured again [no info on the duration] so Bernardo gets a regular place and people going overboard about him, I do hope he is the real deal.


    The club have no information on the club website of who has left Celtic Park in this window, why not have at least a list? Would it look bad for some people? If we continue to bring in young unproven players you can change the names, the success level will be the same, with a churn required every 6 to 12 months. The goalkeeper situation at Celtic is an absolute joke.

  26. Our development model is garbage. We should be looking at clubs like AZ Alkmaar who do a brilliant job of developing young talent. I saw an article from 2 years ago where they said if you make it to their under-13s there’s a 46% chance you’ll become a professional football player. If you reach their under-16s there’s a 58% chance you’ll become a pro. That’s incredible.

  27. CELTIC40ME re: Ange and Werner



    What has that got to do with der hun or Bologna?




  28. absolute joke.



    CHAVEZ on 10TH JANUARY 2024 2:05 PM


    Our development model is garbage. We should be looking at clubs like AZ Alkmaar who do a brilliant job of developing young talent. I saw an article from 2 years ago where they said if you make it to their under-13s there’s a 46% chance you’ll become a professional football player. If you reach their under-16s there’s a 58% chance you’ll become a pro. That’s incredible.




    There’s plenty of Celtic youths that make it as professionals.



    You’d have to tell us what level the AZ youths play at once they turn professional before the 58% means anything

  29. AIPPLE on 10TH JANUARY 2024 2:11 PM



    I love listening to Ange talk about football, he obviously enjoys sharing his understanding of the game and he makes unconventional stuff seem so obvious.



    When you look at how he has a team of misfits playing in the most competitive league in the world after losing the best striker you need to pay attention to what he’s doing.



    His approach to signings is pretty single-minded, even if they’re youngsters. I’m not sure how much control he has at Spurs but if he does get a say you can be sure he’ll have some pretty basic principles in mind



    We’d do well to learn from his approach while he was at Celtic, to signing individual players of all ages and what his plans were for our trading strategy

  30. In relative terms, Bayern Munich and PSG are more valid comparisons for us in terms of domestic league expectations. Talk of Bologna is just horse manure.

  31. The lesson here is that we messed up by not signing Lewis Ferguson, who scored with headers from set pieces against us a few times and has done the same for Bologna. Instead we signed Kwon, presumably on the basis of video clips.

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