HATEM ABD ELHAMED’S solid display in the 2-1 victory over Lazio in the Europa League Group E encounter at Parkhead must have left more than a few onlookers slightly bewildered.
Neil Lennon is also a bit mystified he was able to buy such an accomplished performer for a mere £1.6million in today’s inflated transfer market where players with less quality are regularly moving for 10 times as much.
Elhamed was poised and assured against the Italians on Thursday night during a crucial triumph and surely has proved he is a quality replacement for Mikael Lustig.
Moritz Bauer and Jeremie Frimpong are both more than decent pretenders to the throne, but the Israeli international has been given the nod by his manager to play in the vital matches such as the 2-0 victory over Cluj at the start of the month and the 2-0 win at Ibrox.
Yet Lennon has an admission over the versatile defender. When he made his move for the 28-year-old star he was looking for the catch.
The Irishman, speaking to the Sunday Mail, said: “For the money we bought him for he’s proving to be real value. But we looked and looked and looked at him.
“Then we looked at him again and were always wondering: ‘What’s wrong with him? Where is the flaw?’
“Every time, though, we went back to him, looked at the footage again and looked at other players.
“And finally we thought: ‘We’ve got to trust our eyes, trust our instincts’.
“I’ve a good relationship with his agent who was waxing lyrical about Hatem – as agents do. But he has been true to his word so far, Hatem has been excellent.
THE WAY AHEAD…Hatem Abd Elhamed in control.
“He has a good temperament and played strongly against Lazio. He’s a good type. We’re still getting to know him as a personality. He’s very quiet away from the training ground.
“But he’s a hungry boy and I like that. He has waited a long time for a chance like this one. He has done the rounds in Europe and Israel.
“And there’s no shortage of quality, either. He had a wee back-heel in the second-half against Lazio and the crowd went potty – so did I!
“He’s capable. I don’t know whether he played further up the pitch when he was younger, but you can see he’s comfortable on the ball.
“The defensive side of his game was strong against Lazio, particularly in the first-half, and his quality on the ball is very good. Hatem has a good pace about him, as well.
“He can be delighted with his contribution. He gets a little bit frustrated not playing all the time, but in the important games he has stood up and been brilliant for us.”
Lennon added: “Ideally, I actually think Hatem’s a centre-half, but he can play both positions well.
“When he slotted in at centre-half at Ibrox he was fantastic. It’s just the pairing we’ve got there, with Chris Jullien and Kris Ajer, is working out well so far.
“Hatem can slot in at right-back or if we go to a back three, as we did on Thursday, he can slot in there. He’s proficient in the tactical side of the game.
“But I’m just delighted the way he’s fitting in, so far. Julien, Boli Bolingoli, Moi Elyounoussi are all starting to really find their feet.
“And with the quality players we already had we now look a good side.
“We beat a good side in midweek and it’s just important we maintain that consistency.”
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