From Di Canio to Larsson: Celtic’s Most Impactful Foreign Signings


CELTIC have traditionally been the club through which the best footballers in Scotland pass. The Hoops have been able to recruit the cream of the crop thanks to the vast scouting system as well as produce their own homegrown talents in the academy.

However, Celtic could never dominate the league with local players alone. The foreigners have had an important role in the history of the club and, through their joint effort with the Scottish ones, have enriched the trophy cabinet at Celtic Park.

The Bhoys continue with a perfect blend of domestic and international talent. As such, any list of UK bookmakers will always have Celtic ranked on top when it comes to title contenders. To honour the foreigners that have always helped in the fight for titles, it is worth taking a trip down memory lane to have a look at the best of this category.

Paolo Di Canio

Paolo Di Canio’s stay at Celtic Park was short but memorable. The Italian arrived in Scotland in 1996 in a move currently valued by Transfermarkt at €2 million.

In his only season in Glasgow, Di Canio netted 15 goals in 37 appearances across all competitions and was named SPFA Player of the Year. Unfortunately, he left for Sheffield Wednesday for double the price the next year due to disagreements with the board.

Shunsuke Nakamura

The most iconic non-European player to call Celtic Park his home, Shunsuke Nakamura signed for Celtic in 2005. The Japanese would go on to play for four seasons in Scotland, becoming the brains of Celtic’s midfield thanks to his incredible vision and creativity.

In 2009, Nakamura left for Espanyol with 34 goals in 166 appearances for Celtic, six trophies and multiple individual awards. He only retired from football in 2022 at the age of 44.

Stiliyan Petrov

Stiliyan Petrov was only a teenager playing at CSKA Sofia when the Celtic scouts identified his genius. In the summer of 1999, the Bulgarian midfielder made the move to Glasgow, costing the club around €3 million.

The investment quickly paid off, as Petrov established himself as a regular starter at Celtic Park despite his age and would go on to serve the Hoops for seven full seasons.

Petrov’s legacy at Celtic includes 64 goals in 311 appearances, ten trophies and awards such as the SPFA Young Player of the Year and Celtic Player of the Year. In 2006, the Bulgaria international reunited with manager Martin O’Neil at Aston Villa.

Virgil van Dijk

The 2019 Ballon d’Or runner-up Virgil van Dijk had a two-year stint in Glasgow, between 2013 and 2015, with the Celts bringing him over from Dutch club Groningen.

It didn’t take long for Van Dijk to become an undisputable starter at centre-back despite his tender age. The Dutchman was named in the Team of the Season for both in 2013/14 and 2014/15 as the Celts won two league titles and one Scottish League Cup.

Van Dijk had a surprising scoring record for a defender, leaving Celtic Park with 15 goals in 115 matches.

Artur Boruc

One of the best goalkeepers in the history of the club, Artur Boruc initially joined Celtic on loan in 2005. His rapid progress prompted the club to trigger their buy option, and Boruc would remain at Celtic until 2010.

Boruc was a reliable shot-stopper and a leader on and off the pitch. Making 221 appearances, his heroics helped the Bhoys win three league titles, three cups and was named twice in the Scotland Team of the Year.

Lubomir Moravcik

Barely anyone expected Lubomir Moravcik to have the impact at Celtic he would eventually have when the club brought the 33-year-old in 1998. The midfielder proved the critics wrong already on his debut, though, netting a brace in the 5-1 win over Rangers.

During his four-year spell in Scotland, Moravcik was a reliable option in the middle of the park – a magician on the ball and with an eye for a goal.

The Slovakia international said goodbye to the club in 2002, moving to Japan where he would finish his career. His record for the Bhoys includes 35 goals in 129 appearances and five trophies.

Henrik Larsson

Henrik Larsson, the King of the Kings, is undoubtedly the best foreigner to have ever played for the Celts. The Sweden international called Celtic Park his home between 1997 and 2004, arriving from Feyenoord in a move worth under €700,000.

Larsson scored 242 goals in 313 matches, won eight trophies, various individual awards, and was a central piece in Celtics’ run to the final in the 2002/03 UEFA Cup.

But his legacy goes beyond numbers, and the memories and emotions he gave the Parkhead faithful will carry through generations.


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