Summer 23 Transfer Window assessment


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).

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  1. Here’s some “insight.”



    The manager – the guy in the dugout, you remember him, right? The one who masterminded a victory at Ibrox with half a defence – said he wanted pace and power in the team. In the aftermath of the Killie cup game he explicitly said he wanted experience.



    Did he get any of that? Save the contempt for people who don’t pay attention in class.

  2. Paul Brennan, the optimistic diplomat! Superb article covering both the ridiculous and the sublime. Writing like this is why I still read this blog everyday.




  3. What is the Starz on

    Liam Scales …First name on team sheet.


    Who will partner him..CCV,LIVERPOOL Loanee or the Polish lad ?


    Lager Lager maybe ?

  4. What is the Starz on

    Remember when James Forrest used to come on here regularly to tell us he would never come on here again ever !!!


    Anyone know what he does these days

  5. Interesting blog piece. I understand what Paul is saying, agree with a lot of it. But I don’t think many of us wanted a new signing for every position. I guess that a majority have been suggesting since last season we need aN experienced goalkeeper ready to challenge/push/replace Joe. Scott Bain is not that fella and Siegrist is nowhere to be seen.


    If Joe is injured, has a crisis of confidence or a big dip in form we are ill-prepared to deal with it.



    On a much more positive note, I am quietly confident the squad is more than good enough to win another title and congratulate the board for identifying and signing some exciting prospects.



  6. GlassTwoThirdsFull on

    So, our old firm partners miss out on the Champions League and the “quality” we needed to progress doesn’t materialise. Who could possibly have predicted that!


    For improvement from last season we should have been looking at 2-3 additions that could go straight into the team. We then lose two starters plus a “first thirteen” player permanently and two more to injury.


    With the CL draw a bit more ambition could have given us a great chance of third at least. Not to say we still can’t achieve that but we could have made it a bit easier.


    Certainly a lot of potential though (looking forward to seeing Bernardo in particular) and if our world class head of recruitment has done his job properly things could be looking highly promising in a few years’ time.


    Until then a huge job for the coaching team.

  7. At the Summer end of 2022 we had £30.2M cash in the bank and pre tax profit of £33.9M by Feb 23.



    Participation in this years CL will swell cash in the bank by approx £20M. We made approx £10M profit from player trading this year. We can therefore anticipte approx £60M cash in the bank right now.



    What is this for? Are there significant structural improvements for the club planned? (the indoor pitch at Barrowfield was planned years ago). Or is the accumulation of wealth for no obvious purpose part of a back slapping nest feathering executive culture to keep us just above them on the other side of the city rather than making proper inroads in Europe or real structural improvements such as indoor pitch at Lennoxtown.

  8. GlassTwoThirdsFull on

    “If we wanted to just compete with Newco”




    Perish the thought! Such an outrageous notion it’s odd that you would even mention it…….

  9. WHAT IS THE STARZ re: you’ll never see me again man



    Last I heard he had opened a bakery in south east Asia. Known for their baked tripe.

  10. No mention of a failed 5 million euro bid for the Brondy striker?! Mmm….Time will tell what sort of window it is ….I take certain stuff with a pinch of salt….I’d maybe have preferred Philips for the whole year…could easily be him and CCV for best CB partnership

  11. Agree with most the article – the contract extensions (esp Kyogo) were also key for me.



    I’d still have liked a GK signed to bed in for next season – but there is still January window.



    I think Holm could do the DM / deep playmaker role – esp after his tackle on Tik Tok Cantwell – possibly the most enjoyable defensive action since Jozo sent Misser flying erse over elbow some time back.



    As for JF’s point that in “the aftermath of the Killie cup game he explicitly said he wanted experience.”



    Without being a mind reader my “insight” on that was deflection to cover both himself and the players who had gone down to an offside goal after not getting a stonewall penalty.



    Managers often say a lot that they don’t mean for various reasons; praising players when not playing well etc.



    I guess we can all read things how we like to enforce our own views.




  12. The returnof weeron on

    Interesting article. Hints of board apologist, with some strong notes of realism, somewhat overwhelmed by a taste of desperation.



    I think our recruitment team (and our manager) might have hoped that deals would have been completed earlier. The UCL will be well underway before all of our new players are bedded in.



    Also, this 2 year profit trading should not be our only strategy. We have been blessed with the longevity of James Forrest, Broonie and Calum. Where is the leadership going to come from? There are very few Scottish players breaking into our first team. The likes of Bernardo will likely be away in 2 years, with Benfica making more out of the deal than Celtic, as was probably the case with Jota.



    The ‘model’ was underpinned by having experienced Scottish players, who would stick around, to mentor the 2 year visitors.



    It’s far from clear how this will work in a couple of years.




  13. James Forrest



    “said he wanted pace and power in the team. In the aftermath of the Killie cup game he explicitly said he wanted experience.




    Did he get any of that? ”





    Yes- I think he did get some of that but not all, don’t you?



    The wingers have pace and trickery. The defenders have power. The midfielders look skilful and Holm has a dig.



    Now, re experience, you have a point. We suspect that two of the targets we failed to land Kelleher at Liverpool and the Brondby CF were not terribly experienced but Brendan seemed to be on board with their pursuit. So- why was he emphasising it?



    If there’s one thing I dislike about Brendan is how he sends dog whistles out to be interpreted. It’s a CYA (Cover Your Ass) approach preparing the ground to escape blame. The one thing it is not, is a clear message to the fans. If it was truly clear, he would need fewer interpreters for his pronouncements and his body language, most of whom, surprisingly, interpret his speeches as “Brendan agrees with me!”



    Now, I rate BR as a coach and I’m glad we have him, but there’s a touch of the politician and the business guru about him that I like less. So long as he can do his current magic with our footballers, then I can put up with the dog whistling. But I don’t like that aspect of the man. He is capable of much clearer communication, should he choose to do so.



    In conclusion, the transfer window undeniably left us with no improvement in the goalkeeping or full back department (except Bernabei is a year older but not noticeably wiser yet).



    But, Paul is right on one aspect. All the other actual signings have been written off prematurely as inferior and downgrades- 4 games into a season. It is something we regularly do on Celtic blogs. You may even recall that it was done to Ange Postecoglou two seasons ago.

  14. Both barrels Paul, and right on target!!!



    We have the second opening of this season’s transfer-window in January and I’m sure there will be additional wants and needs to be addressed within our aims & means model.



    I perceive a slightly different Brendan is back with us. I believe this young squad motivates him; perhaps his “it’s time to be a man” speech prior to Ibrox, gives us an insight.



    There is a sense of togetherness from top to bottom at Celtic Park – I have a good feeling about it.



    Ange will never be forgotten, but Brendan is the future.

  15. SFTB



    “You may even recall that it was done to Ange Postecoglou two seasons ago.”



    I near spat my tea over my screens there!




  16. In a daft meander in my own Heid I find myself asking do we actually play enough football in July August ?



    Without European qualifications and the intense early season competition are we just slow to bed in ?



    Would the fabled close doors games help any.



    Should we play some games during the league cup schedule.



    And does a glass roof on a full size indoor pitch make players grow taller

  17. bigrailroadblues on

    St Stivs


    And does a glass roof on a full size indoor pitch make players grow taller


    Ffs hahahaha 😆

  18. bognorbhoy @ 10.51



    What I was intimating is that of the return of two former Celtic employees Paul welcomes one and is crestfallen with the other.


    I’ll leave it to you to hazard a guess as to which is which.


    That leaves you with a 50-50 chance of getting it right.


    A far higher percentage, I would suggest, than would normally be the case.



    James, I enjoy reading your Blog, just like I enjoy reading CQN, and I thought your days of bitching at CQN’s host were behind you?🤔… Obviously not…


    Your Blog, and CQN, like this comment, are just opinions, albeit Paul and yourself are likely more sensitive to income related to web hits. I think your post does you a great disservice James; firstly, I thought we were all ON THE SAME SIDE, and secondly, posts like yours today will just drive readers like me away from reading your Blog. Kind of self-defeating I would have thought? 🤔


    Again, just my own humble opinion.


    Yours in Celtic,


    TB&F. 🙂🍀

  20. bigrailroadblues on

    Good afternoon all from the Florida Park. A very warm day in old Glasgow Town. Nice beer garden. No sign of huns to upset, they must be on holiday.

  21. On the same subject as the article, and by coincidence, Football Observatory has today issued a review of net transfer spending over the last 10 years by Europe’s most active clubs:





    Celtic is listed as a middling team, with a €33m net transfer income over 10 years. This compares to the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, and PSG who have all spent more than 1bn Euros. At the other end of the scale, Benfica has a net income of €764m. In fact, 3 of the teams with the most net income come from Portugal (Benfica, Sporting, Porto).


    Swansea and Norwich are the only active teams playing in English leagues to show a 10-year profit.



    Several English clubs, including Bournemouth and Crystal Palace, have 10-year net transfer spends greater than Real Madrid or Bayern Munich.



    No comment.

  22. Football fans and fragile self -esteem eh … I’m away to toss a coin , I hope I don’t shout best of three ..😜

  23. A lot of interesting points Paul, and I agree with many of them. It is far too early to write off players because 1) you have never heard of them or 2) they cost a more “modest” fee but I don’t think that is the main criticism. The main issue I have certainly is that we are back to a model that has seen us largely embarrassed in Europe in the last decade. You have claimed that the current model is the only one and mentioned the Ibrox club in the same breath. They have been to a European final in the last 18 months.



    So, whilst I would not hold them up as any financial model to follow (obviously) they have achieved more than us in Europe. Fact. There is a perception that we have a safe board lacking in ambition but I would say they are more towards “roll me a hard 8” gamblers.



    I have said previously that £18.5m or so is a huge sum of money on fees (and maybe more with loan fees) and as you point out wages must be reflected – including of course the new contracts – and that comes to a significant sum of money. No complaints from me. But that doesn’t make you a better team. In truth it puts more of a burden on the financials and the Manager with so many players to try and appease.



    Losing Jota makes us weaker. Losing Starfelt makes us weaker. It can often be very difficult for a club such as ours to replace like for like but we should at least go for a balance at times and I don’t think you or anybody else can say that has happened this window.



    Your player analysis is fair and you absolutely can’t expect to improve every position, but when you go two steps back to maybe take two forward it can become frustrating for a support who is desperate for respect in Europe.



    On paper (!) both CB’s look like they will have a chance and Palma too. It’s all a gamble of course on most players which I understand and more experienced players such as Ajeti or McCarthy have proven expensive “flops”. But, like signing young players that don’t work out nor should we then never sign an established player because the aforementioned two didn’t work out.



    What concerns me is that we are going back to a last week of the window signing plan. The days of Bitton at Centre half or Josh Thompson to try and qualify for the CL. That just doesn’t make sense and it has cost us a League cup defence.



    As somebody has pointed out we are all Celtic supporters on here but maybe some should remember nobody is a bigger one than anybody else just because they don’t accept without question what the club does or how it is run.

  24. JamesForrest



    This is a Celtic blog .


    If you have issues with its owner speak to him.


    Please stop repeatedly trying to force those issues onto others.


    Surely you are better than that.


    Stay cool

  25. What concerns me is that we are going back to a last week of the window signing plan.






    not by design, not in the planning.



    maybe celtic asked about availability of these players on day 1 of the window

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