When rumours of Carl Starfelt going to Russia first surfaced last week few of us believed them. Russia? Not right now. But we all had the debate, would you sell him? He has been part of an incredibly successful Celtic central defensive partnership: won five from six trophies, never lost a domestic game in 90 minutes, plays on the left, the list goes on.
But you know the mantra, manage your assets or fail to manage your assets. We should always be ready to trade a 28-year-old player who is second of two central defenders. You and I have seen too often the consequences of failing to manage our assets.
We are now first and foremost a trading club. Wish Carl all the very best at Celta Vigo and trade up.
Given this article of faith in how business should be done, the only remaining question is price. Despite that glorious record in the last two years, Carl’s value ceiling has been set by performances when hundreds of scouts watched games he played in throughout his career.
Like Josip Juranovic in this sense, keeping the likes of Naymar in your pocket at the World Cup will not move the dial much. We paid £1.5m two years ago for the player because Rubin Kazan had no other takers. £5m today is very much his ceiling.
We hear lots about how difficult it is to settle into a new club, few had as difficult a challenge as Carl joining Celtic. He signed during a 2021 lockdown but was not permitted to travel to Scotland until 31 July that year – the day Celtic were due to play their opening league game against Hearts at Tynecastle and Ange Postecoglou wanted him in the team.
To stay the right side of the law (we are Celtic, after all), on 30 July Carl and a driver sat at a service station south of the border until midnight. The driver took a photo of Carl, with metadata confirming location and time, before travelling to Celtic’s hotel.
He arrived in the early hours, had some sleep before rising to meet his new teammates at breakfast. On 31 July he travelled from Southwaite, met dozens of new faces, a new manager, new tactics, all in a new country. He played 90 minutes and offered no excuses for his rustiness, just got on with the job. Quite heroic.
Tonight it’s the turn of Hibs and Hearts to try to contribute some Uefa coefficient points to the Scottish clubs’ cause in the Uefa Conference League.
Hearts are in Trondheim to face Rosenborg. The Norwegians are 18 games into their league season so will be miles sharper than Hearts, but this is not the Rosenborg we remember. They are eight in the table; memories of 13 titles in a row and regular Champions League football are a fading memory.
Hearts are capable of progressing to the playoff round, where they would face either Hajduk Split or PAOK. They can be hopeful.
Hibs are home to Luzern tonight, who finished fourth in Switzerland last term. Swiss football is now a toy thing for Young Boys, so this tie is certainly winnable, but Hibs will surely Hibs it, denying Aston Villa a trip to the Festival later this month.
The additional Champions League monies we talked about yesterday looked in jeopardy 20 minutes into a scintillating performance by Newco last night. Around that time, the scintillating part ended as a dour Servette settled in for the night.
Having sat through the whole game, I feel a bit foolish for putting our league title chances as low as 67% on Friday. Newco have a lead to take to Switzerland on Tuesday, there remains every chance they will progress against a team that did not create a single chance in the first leg and will need to score at least once to stay in the competition. But goodness, the early signs from across the city are heartening.