Patrick Roberts will finally be free of his well-compensated Manchester City contract next month. The player made one appearance for his parent club in the seven years since joining from Fulham. His two and a half years at Celtic between 2016 and 2018 remain his most celebrated, at the club where he has made more than twice as many appearances than any other.
It is hard to imagine, but four years ago, Patrick was the as Jota is today in almost every respect. Having lit up our campaign from the wing, we all hoped to secure him on a permanent deal. Patrick wanted to come too, but Pep Guardiola stopped a proposed £10m deal from proceeding. I am sure he would walk from Sunderland to Celtic Park, if an offer was made.
What I know for sure is that we cannot base player assessments on what happened four years ago. If we did, Patrick would be joined by Filip Benkovic at Lennoxtown. The latter has made only 13 starts since leaving Celtic three years ago and none for Udinese, his current employer.
Last night, as I watched Patrick score the goal that took Sunderland to a Wembley play-off final and the chance of promotion to the EFP Championship, you could have tempted me to want him back. He had an ability to create space in the most packed defences, something Celtic face more often than most teams. He was built for Celtic Park.
Getting the band back together is fraught with difficulties. Few return as effective as they were when they left. Patrick needs to join (or stay with) a team operating at the top end of whatever league he plays in, one that spends most of their time attacking tight defensive formations. Out of contract, he will be a bargain for someone. Celtic have made far worse punts.