If you know your Greek mythology, you will know that Vasilis Barkas (28) joined Celtic as a goalkeeper two years ago.
During last season’s league campaign, he made it onto the bench for the opening game against Hearts and played the Boxing Day fixture at St Johnstone. In the cups, he was a Scottish Cup fifth round substitute against Raith Rovers. It was the Champions League qualification that made Ange Postecoglou’s mind up about him.
Midtjylland earned a first leg draw at Celtic Park with a goal that Vasilis carried the can for. Ange had seen enough. The Boxing Day appearance was a result of significant illness in the squad, it is telling that Vasilis was unaffected.
Yesterday, he travelled to Utrecht in the Netherlands, the land of his birth, where he will spend next season trying to get his career back on track.
Barkas is the most expensive goalkeeper signing in our history and was a significant deviation from plan. International travel was banned in the spring of 2020 and scouts were not permitted to attend games until late in the summer.
Fraser Forster, who performed superbly for Celtic the previous season, had permission from parent club, Southampton, to train with us pending completion of an anticipated new loan deal. The south coast club had some details to take care of first but terms were agreed.
Craig Gordon had been backup to Fraser and had an offer on the table from Celtic to remain at the club another season. Craig, however, was at the stage of his career where he wanted to play and left to join Hearts on a significantly lower wage than was on the table at Celtic.
When Southampton gave Celtic the green light, Peter Lawwell called Fraser at Lennoxtown to confirm the deal was done, only to be told, “Actually, I’m not sure.” I understand there was a possibility of some goalkeeper movement at Chelsea and they were looking at backup options. Fraser was invited to empty his locker.
Had he revealed his hesitation a week earlier, Craig Gordon would have accepted the higher-paid contract at Celtic and stayed as first choice. He didn’t just let the club down, his ‘keeper pal was denied money and potentially medals.
Unable to scout, Celtic were left in a position of recruiting from the teams they play against, or relying on external scouts in Europe. This latter route brought Barkas to Glasgow. He successfully played against Celtic in Champions League qualification two years earlier, was a full Greek international with experience at the top table of European football.
We will hopefully never had to sign a player without going through proper scouting processes again, alas, a repeat of the behaviour of Fraser Forster is something we are likely to see at some point.
Good luck, Vasilis.