AMIDST the habitual summer friendly matches for Celtic, offering Brendan Rodgers opportunities to tinker with his team selections and make tactical tweaks, there’s also competitive football with the Champions League qualifying encounters.
How the Bhoys fare in Europe over the next month could shape the 2018/19 season to come, not least in terms of transfer policy at the club.
The transfer saga so far this summer has revolved around John McGinn, with Hibernian demanding no less than £4m for the 23-year-old, who Celtic have earmarked as an ideal midfield replacement for Stuart Armstrong, following his £7m departure to Southampton.
“It’s going to be a difficult one,” Rodgers admitted to BBC Sport, underlining that it’s “between the clubs” to agree on a fee, if the deal is to be concluded.
Despite the contract of McGinn expiring at the end of next season, Hibs are standing firm in their current valuation of the player, conscious that several English clubs are monitoring the situation. However, with the transfer window closing on 9th August south of the border, the Easter Road club are potentially running the risk of losing the player for free next season, if no bids from Premier League and Championship suitors are forthcoming, leaving Celtic in pole position to tie up a pre-agreement.
The transfer window in Scotland doesn’t close until 31st August, like most countries elsewhere in Europe. This gives Rodgers plenty of time to make further additions, if needed, but even if no more signings are made by then, the odds favour Celtic to continue their dominance of the Scottish Premiership, with the Bhoys priced at 2/25 to comfortably win an eighth consecutive league title.
The club has already splashed out £9.27m to sign Odsonne Eduard from Paris Saint-Germain at the start of July, after the 20-year-old was highly impressive during his loan spell last season, although this outlay has in part been offset by the sale of Armstrong. Celtic do still have money to spend, but they won’t spend it frivolously and for that reason, it’s unlikely the club will match the asking price of Hibs for McGinn.
Whilst it’s acknowledged there’s also a need to replace highly influential winger Patrick Roberts, who returned to Manchester City after two excellent seasons on loan with the Bhoys, there appears to be no rush to do so at the moment. The club hierarchy appear to be playing a waiting game, with two key factors that could prove decisive towards unlocking Celtic’s total summer spend.
The first consideration will be how far the team can progress in qualifying for the lucrative group stage of the Champions League. Already on the right track after the win against Armenian minnows, Alashkert, getting all the way there is by no means easy or a certainty. For that reason, the most likely source of additional funds to spend on significant signings might be further sales.
There has been widely reported interest in Kieran Tierney, although the Liverpool Echo believe Everton have been put off by Celtic’s £25m and are looking elsewhere. Meanwhile, Fulham have been linked with a potential swoop for Dedryck Boyata, which could bring in upwards of £5m if that happens. The Belgian defender has also attracted rumoured interest from other clubs around Europe.
Nevertheless, with each additional sale, there also comes the headache for Rodgers of needing to find yet another replacement. Given the interest from English clubs in Celtic players, don’t be surprised to see a flurry of activity on or around their 9th August transfer deadline. The destiny of the team in European competition this season will also be known for certain by then, which means that fans may realistically have to wait until mid-to-late August before the next batch of incoming transfers.