VASILIS BARKAS became the most expensive goalkeeper in Celtic history when he arrived in a £4.5million switch from AEK Athens on July 30 2020.
Albian Ajeti was boss Neil Lennon’s highest transfer outlay in the club’s quest for a historic tenth successive title when the Switzerland international striker cost £5million from West Ham 13 days later.
Now, following a season and a half, the £9.5million double-act are on the brink of moves away from Parkhead after less-than-convincing performances during their stay in Scotland.
OOPS…Vasilis Barkas mistimes a free-kick to gift FC Midtjylland their equaliser in the Champions League qualifier at Parkhead in July.
Barkas made only his second competitive appearance of the season in the 3-1 win over St Johnstone on Sunday since his Champions League qualifying howler against FC Midtjylland back on July 20. In his first game in charge, Ange Postecoglou had seen £3.5million Israeli new Bhoy Liel Abada fire the Hoops ahead.
However, the Greek netminder got his timing and angles all horribly wrong when Evander swung in an angled free-kick at the start of the second-half. It looked a routine save, but the keeper flapped at the ball as it sailed over his head and into the net for the equaliser. The Danes tucked two behind his replacement Scott Bain a week later and the club’s hopes of a £30million windfall in Europe’s elite competition were obliterated.
Five months after Barkas’ original signing and a series of unconvincing displays, Lennon entrusted Northern Ireland rookie Conor Hazard with the gloves for the delayed 2020 Scottish Cup Final against Hearts at Hampden on December 20 with the team just a game away from the truly phenomenal quadruple treble.
NO CHANCE…Vasilis Barkas is left helpless with Chris Kane’s consolation goal for St Johnstone in Celtic’s 3-1 win in Perth.
The youngster, with Barkas watching from the sidelines, made two dramatic saves in the penalty-kick shoot-out following a 3-3 extra-time draw to bring the silverware back to the east end of Glasgow for the fourth consecutive year.
Postecoglou insisted everyone was “starting with a clean sheet” and Barkas was given the nod ahead of Scott Bain for the opening European encounter, but the new manager saw enough in that one match to ditch Barkas.
The 27-year-old custodian, who has also lost his Greece international status, made an unexpected return in Perth when Joe Hart, Bain and Hazard were unavailable. Youngster Ryan Mullen was named among the substitutes.
The outing against rock-bottom Saints could turn out to be Barkas’ swansong at Celtic. To be fair, he had no chance with the goal he conceded that was flashed into the net via the head of Chris Kane after a sloppy pass from Carl Starfelt was snapped up by the Saints.
DOWN AND OUT…Albian Ajeti is left to wonder about a missed chance.
Once again, there was no sign of Ajeti. His misfortune at the club was illustrated again when he was given the opportunity to lead the line in the final Europa League Group G confrontation against Real Betis in Glasgow on December 9 – and he lasted a mere 27 minutes before limping off with a hamstring problem.
It had been the ideal chance for the Swiss attacker to impress Postecoglou with Kyogo Furuhashi rested for the meeting with the Spaniards.
The Japanese international was forced to come off the substitutes’ bench before he, too, had to leave the field in the 71st minute with an injury as Ewan Henderson took over and marked the occasion by scoring his first goal for the club.
With £2.5million Greek marksman Giorgos Giakoumakis out with knee trouble, the way was open for Ajeti to finally show his credentials that enticed Lennon to fork out such a sizeable fee for him.
The 24-year-old forward has scored three goals in Postecoglou’s reign – two against Ross County in a 3-0 win on September 11 and the opener against Betis in the 4-3 loss in Seville five days later.
LOOKING TO THE HEAVENS…Albian Ajeti is disappointed after a miss in the 1-1 draw with Dundee United in September.
Remarkably, Ajeti has yet to get into double figures since his big-money arrival following six in last season’s wretched campaign.
That is one fewer than Abada who hoisted his tally to 10 with his double against Callum Davidson’s club at the weekend. Remember, too, the Israel international has played most of his games at Celtic on the wing.
It’s also seven fewer than Kyogo who lobbed in his 16th of the term to claim the Premier Sports League Cup against Hibs earlier this month.
There is little debate Barkas and Ajeti have under-performed since they were brought to Scotland and Postecoglou inherited the problem Bhoys in the summer.
The ideal solution would be for the keeper and the striker to depart Parkhead in the forthcoming transfer window, but only the most optimistic among us could believe Celtic will get even a reasonable percentage of their original outlay for the players.
However, it could be time for the club to cut their losses on Barkas and Ajeti.