I read one highly unlikely article yesterday suggesting we were going to sign Alfred Finnbogason AND were still bidding big money for Kevin Doyle ahead of an 11pm tonight signing deadline. It’s hard to be so wrong in so few words, but this one hit the mark.
Alfred is a target but, and this is the key point the newspapers have not picked up on, he is one of four strikers Celtic are seriously considering at the moment. He looks the part, as do the others, I am assured, but the deal has to be right for Celtic to move.
Our strategic plan is to buy players at a comparatively low price, develop them on the Champions League stage, and sell high, in order to be able to build a team capable of competing further in the Champions League.
To do this we need to buy from the right markets, at the correct age and on the right wage. There will be exceptions to this rule. A few weeks shy of his 27th birthday, Dirk Boerrigter is unlikely to appreciate greatly, but teams need experience to tackle the Champions League, as well as some specific skills, so Dirk is here for what he can give today, not to be the next £12m exit.
We will see more business like Wanyama and Hooper. Before Celtic agree a deal for Finnbogason there would need to be a gap between the buy price and the projected valuation IF the player is a success. If this gap doesn’t exist we will do business elsewhere. Sticking to strategy is more important than pursuing a target like some latter-day David “this time we’re really going for it” Murray.
You can also forget about the 11pm deadline tonight. That is only relevant if we need two or more new players to overcome Shakhter Karagandy. If we want to add Finnbogason, or any ONE other player, the deadline for a Wildcard signing is a day before the game, or pretty much when the team leaves Glasgow Airport, so there is no effective deadline tonight. As such, I would be surprised if a deal was concluded today.
Right now, at Lennoxtown and Celtic Park, people are deciding how to invest our money. We have the kind of choices consistent with a well-run club, but while we are a well-run club, we can’t get caught up in the hubris.
We are living through some big changes in our financial model. Revenue from domestic football (season ticket sales-now discounted, Rangers game £42-per-head ticket sales, hospitality sales, commercial income) has fallen, or disappeared completely (I reckon we’re in the region of £9m p.a. down in these areas, we’ll have a better indication when accounts are released later this month). On top of this, the club was running at a loss without Champions League football or significant player sale (£7m for season 2011-12, the last we have accounts for), and as well as some income streams falling, costs have risen.
I heard that one ‘St Mirren’ supporting journo on Radio Scotland on Saturday said with last season’s Champions League income and money from player sales, Celtic have a £40m transfer kitty.
In the name of all that is sacred, nine years after ‘What the Celtic fans want to know is where is all the Seville money?’, the same nonsense is being peddled. As far as some are concerned, we are back where we started on CQN. The first thing you do with your money is pay your bills, including tax… there is no creditor left behind at Celtic. After they are taken care off you can look to invest in footballers.
This year, the underlying loss has been flipped because of player sales and that Champions League income, although not by nearly as much as journos who regard researching accounts before commenting on finance as an unnecessary indulgence, will tell you. Without Champions League income (this season potentially £14m plus any prize money earned), the money from Wanyama alone would not make this a profitable season, even before the spend on our new signings.
The road ahead is clear. Get into the Champions League as often as possible without allowing any individual failure to cause a collapse, sign players who will flourish at that level, sell them for a profit, repeat and reinforce all aspects of strategy with an improved budget.
Over any business period, every penny which comes into the club, has been, and will continue to be, spent. Our money will be invested in footballers who will appreciate in value, and who will give Celtic their best chance of pushing further in the Champions League on a persistent basis. It will not rest in a bank account earning a pittance in interest. The strategy is ambitious and sustainable but not reckless.
A year ago some wondered if Celtic could survive, never mind flourish, without a Rangers-branded club in the league. If successful, this strategy will not only allow the club to flourish, it may even result in higher long-term income than Celtic achieved while locked in an arms race with a former rival, with a corresponding improvement in Champions League achievement.
Is Alfred Finnbogason the man, is he better than the others we’re looking at, good enough to excel in the Champions League? I’ve no idea, but he is just one detail in the wider Celtic strategy.
Stick to plan, Celtic.
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