MATT O’RILEY is a £20million target for newly-promoted Southampton, we are informed.

Celtic’s smooth midfield operator has apparently caught the eye of his former MK Dons boss Russell Martin and has emerged as a priority signing as the club gear up for their return to the English top flight.

It is reported the south coast outfit are prepared to include add-ons to take the finances beyond the joint record of £25million the Parkhead side picked up for Kieran Tierney, to Arsenal in August 2019, and Filipe Jota, to Saudia Arabia’s Al-Ittihad a year ago.

YOU’RE HAVING A LAUGH…Matt O’Riley celebrates the Scottish Cup Final triumph with Daizen Maeda.

If – and it’s probably a massive if – the Saints remain among the so-called elite at the end of the season then the Parkhead powerbrokers can expect further payments, according to the Daily Record.

It’s in moments like this you wonder if our neighbours beyond Hadrian’s Wall believe we are all country bumpkins and have hayseed sticking out our ears.

The offer of £20million up front for Celtic’s multiple Player of the Year is nothing short of an insult.

Why on earth would a club with millions of pounds sitting in the bank even waste time considering such a derisory offer for a 23-year-old playmaker whose absence probably went some way to his adopted nation Denmark limping out of the Euros?

Would O’Riley, who signed a new four-year deal in late September, even believe joining Southampton is a step in the right direction?

Let’s face it, they will be involved in a survival dogfight and the svelte skills of an accomplished midfielder may well be better suited for the Champions League where he excelled last season to the extent he attracted attention of Atletico Madrid.

HE WENT THATAWAY…Matt O’Riley deftly sidesteps a lunging challenge from John Lundstram on Celtic’s way to Scottish Cup success at Hampden on May 25.

Quite rightly, the Hoops hierachy were not even remotely tempted to allow a star performer to leave at a crucial stage of the campaign on a loan deal with the promise of a permanent switch in the summer.

Our old friends Inter Milan have also been displaying more than a passing interest in a player who arrived in a cut-price £1.5million move from third-tier MK Dons in January 2022.

O’Riley was an instant success and it looked to be a marriage made in heaven. I am reliably informed he is perfectly happy with life at Celtic and in Scotland, but, of course, things can change so rapidly in football, so I won’t be holding my breath of witnessing the ball artiste taking his place in the official team group for the new season.

Let’s enjoy him while we can without the nuisance reports of clubs hoping to spirit him away for negligible money.

The £20million offer for O’Riley is put in perspective this morning with the news Ange Postecoglou is considering a £40million bid for Leeds United’s versatile Archie Gray to take him to Spurs.

This is an 18-year-old right-back or midfielder, grandson of former Scotland international Frank Gray and great nephew of Eddie Gray, who is not even a full international. He has represented England up to Under-21 level, but remains eligible to play for the Scots.

REFLECTIONS…Matt O’Riley has a quiet moment during Celtic’s 5-0 romp against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park to seal the club’s third successive title on May 15. 

A good friend of mine from schooldays, William Beaton, flagged up the youngster’s name about a year ago. We both went to St Margaret Mary’s in Castlemilk round about the same time as Frank Gray.

My chum kept his eye on young Archie’s progress, talked him up and I tuned in to see him in the play-offs against Southampton, coincidentally. He looked like a sound enough prospect, but to value him at DOUBLE that of O’Riley is simply crazy.

There is potential there, that’s for sure, but there is still more to come from the Celt, you can be certain of that, too.

When you compare the valuations of both players it merely emphasises the disparity between two different market places.

Memo to our English neighbours: Please don’t bother coming back with another piffling, insignificant offer for one of Celtic’s players.

Brendan Rodgers has an assault on the domestic treble and Europe to plan for and doesn’t need petty distractions.


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