CELTIC fans pondered anxiously over the champions’ ability to replace Filipe Jota after the winger’s £25million exit to Saudi Arabia in July.
The tricky touchline ace made an immediate impact on the team and the supporters when he arrived on a temporary transfer from Benfica in August 2021, a loan move that was converted into a £6.5million permanent switch 12 months later.
The dashing Portuguese maverick played a headline role as the Hoops romped through the campaign to claim a record eighth domestic silverware clean sweep with Jota, ironically, scoring the final goal in the Scottish Cup showpiece triumph over Inverness Caley Thistle at a sun-kissed Hampden Park on June 3 that cemented the place in history.
GOT IT LICKED…Filipe Jota celebrates another goal for Celtic.
The concerns of the Hoops followers were understandable, but in recent weeks the form of one exciting individual is beginning to dispel the unease.
Luis Palma has stepped up to the plate to take the spotlight. The 23-year-old Honduran international was bought for £3.5million from Greek club Aris Thessaloniki
in late August and, following a slow start in his new surroundings, is now delivering on a consistent basis.
He had the confidence to accept the responsibility of taking the penalty-kick against Aberdeen on Sunday after consecutive failures from Reo Hatate and David Turnbull against Hearts and St Mirren respectively.
With a staccato run-up you could set to music, the personality sunk the spot-kick behind keeper Kelle Roos with a fair amount of aplomb.
It was Palma’s fifth goal for the champions and Premiership pacesetters, two behind Jota at this stage of this season last year.
SONG AND DANCE…Luis Palma is the Celtic cheerleader after the 3-0 success against Ross County in Dingwall. Skipper Callum McGregor joins in.
The new Bhoy was also involved in three killer passes to produce goals for Yang Hyun-jun, Turnbull and Oh Hyeon-gyu in the 6-0 runaway success against the demoralised Dons. That brought his assists to five, one behind the 24-year-old Portuguese pin-up.
However, it is worth noting Palma’s contribution to the taking and making goals is compiled following 612 minutes of competitive football while Jota’s total was claimed from 1,037 minutes of service in the first team.
The styles of both players are in contrast with Palma bereft of the pace of his predecessor, but his delivery of diagonal crosses is creating chances for his team-mates.
Plus, as he demonstrated at the weekend, the Honduran can mix it up as he skipped away from two challenges to whip over an inviting cross that eliminated the keeper and presented the perfect opportunity for Yang to score his first goal for the club.
As the season progresses, there just might be the possibility of Celtic fans saying: “Filipe who?”