In a busy transfer window, Celtic signed nine new players and sold four from the first team squad. Central defence saw two planned arrivals: Maik Nawrocki (22) and Gustaf Lagerbielke (23), and the departure of Carl Starfelt (28). Starfelt’s two-year partnership with Cameron Carter-Vickers was remarkably successful. They only once experience defeat in a domestic game when paired together and that was after extra-time.
There are great hopes for Nawrocki and Lagerbielke but injuries to the former, as well as Carter-Vickers, saw emergency loanee Nat Phillips (26) arrive from Liverpool. Nat and Gustav will be at the heart of the defence when we open for Champions League duty next week, barring further drama!
The wings saw Jota (24) leave for Arabia for an eye-watering £25m, pushing through the ceiling established by Kieran Tierney. Sead Haksabanovic (24) went on load to Stoke. One was always first choice; one was always a late throw of the dice. Some of Jota’s goals were of a standard we have not seen at Celtic in many years, he scored in big games too and is a player you will talk about for decades.
Three wingers came in. Hyun-jun Yang (21) arrived from Korea and has made the biggest impact so far, which is remarkable for one so young and so far from home. It is clear he enjoys taking-on a defender and is someone who will make things happen.
Australian Marco Tilio (21) came in early in the window, but injury means he has still to make his debut. Like Yang, he mostly plays on the right. On the left, Ecuadorian Luis Palma (23) came in late August, too soon to be involved at the weekend, but he is fit and ready for action. The fee paid for Luis was a just a shade below the €5m top figure we paid this window for Nawrocki. An indication, perhaps, that he is most likely to fill the Jota shaped hole.
Central mid saw the retirement of Aaron Mooy (32). He was with us for only a season, during which he was injured for a lengthy period and benched for many games, he nonetheless left an important gap in the squad.
In came Norwegian Odin Thiago Holm (20), the youngest of the signings. At this age, Odin’s best position is still under review. I expect to see him tried in the box-to-box role as well as in a more advanced position, if not eventually moving back, as his captain did.
So far, the most apt observation I have for Odin is ‘attitude’. He is here to make an impact and wasted no time at Ibrox on Sunday. Moments after he arrived, he carried the ball 15 yards before getting a shot on target. The early signs are encouraging.
Can we do another ‘Jota’ on Benfica? Paulo Bernardo (21) came in on a loan-with-option-to-buy deal. Celtic were very keen to get this one over the line. Like Jota two years ago, the club sees a high upper potential here.
The one player who looks like a punt in the dark is Hyeok-kyu Kwon (22). The defensive mid joins after making an impact in the Korean second tier. Callum McGregor is perhaps the fittest player we have ever had at Celtic. Kwon may have a frustrating wait, alongside Tomoki Iwata, for gametime.
We are familiar seeing Celtic sub out both wingers during the game, with Maeda, Palma, Abada, Yang, Tilio and Forrest, this will continue. It is more common to swap out only one central mid. With Hatate, O’Riley, Turnbull, Holm, Bernado all available to fill the two slots in front of Callum McGregor, this is about to change.
Coaches are still getting their heads around how best to use their five substitute options. Throwing on two fresh wingers after an hour and a change of striker was the first iteration of change. Expect experimentation in the middle of the park this season.
By any measure, the success of this transfer window has yet to be determined – it is truly insane to suggest otherwise (apologies to the many who left a self-identifier to this effect). I hear very, very, good things about Nawrocki. Holm, Bernardo, Tilio, Yang, Palma and Lagerbielke were all top targets, which is preferable to sliding down the list in the final days.
We took in around £30m and spent an estimated £19m on transfer fees. Wage packets for the arrivals will be heavier than the leavers took home. This is your annual reminder that wages and transfer spend both come out of income, feel free to howl disagreement in the direction of the moon.
If we wanted to just compete with Newco, like them, we would have signed players in their mid-20s, less risky but with less potential. If, however, we want to make significant leaps forward in Europe, we need to follow another route.
Find, sign and develop players with high upper potential. Get them in the team, improve them and if you get it right, you have a chance. This is the only game in town for Celtic, we are wasting opportunity doing anything else.
It is clear what Celtic tried to achieve in this window. We have established a recruitment model that brought players from across the globe. We offer first-team domestic and Champions League football to players in their early 20s. Our pitch is that they get to earn well, win trophies and have a platform to hopefully build a great career.
There will be Kilmarnock-shaped bumps along the way. We need to be able to cope with them without self-indulgent flagellation. Football fans have been coping with defeats since the game began, don’t lose sight of this among all our silverware, it’s not a good look.
Neither is the invective expressed because we didn’t strengthen every position. This never happens – anywhere! One more thought. This is an easy article to write after Sunday, when pennies dropped across the country. The window would have been no less valid had the Roofe ‘goal’ been permitted and the result gone the other way.
Watch across the city as fans tear their club apart. Football is a more difficult business than any of the experts who have achieved nothing in the game believe. If you think spending money on a player is an absolutely obvious thing for Celtic to do, and you know we have the money, but that deal does not happen, it is not because you are wise, and Celtic are led by fools. It might just be that you are missing insight (I’m being very polite here).