Three matters to discuss today: players in, players out and players who stayed.
As the transfer window closed, the clear need in the squad was competition for our only left back, Greg Taylor. There was never any doubt a player would arrive, but I am delighted (and maybe a bit surprised) we secured the loan signing of Uruguayan international, Diego Laxalt.
He will significantly bolster our effectiveness on the left, which will, in turn, make it more difficult for teams to double up on Jeremie Frimpong on the right, making Celtic far more effective.
You and I have talked through over 30 transfer windows. I don’t think any will top ‘the Robbie Keane’ window in terms of general satisfaction, but this one comes close. In Vasilis Barkas, Shane Duffy, Diego Laxalt, Albian Ajeti and Moi Elyounoussi, we have added five players who will be first choice in most games this season. This is an exceptional return. We have added more players in the past, but I don’t think we have ever added as many starters in a single window.
I know several Motherwell fans who speak very highly of David Turnbull. His early Celtic performances have showed promise. He is comfortable on the ball, very mobile and has a great set-piece delivery. £3m is a lot to spend at a Scottish club but we will have scouted David more than anyone else who has arrived in recent years. He should do well.
We got money for Eboue Kouassi – nothing like the £3m reported, but payment nonetheless. The annual cull of youths who did not make the step up included Jack Aitchison. Four years ago, Jack became the youngest player to represent Celtic in a competitive football game, and with true Roy Race style, scored with his first touch of the ball. It was an exhilarating moment for us all. Remember his name, it will appear in quizzes for the rest of your days.
Regrets? There is one. Fraser Forster will forever be a hero around these parts. He has the unusual distinction of performing just as well in his second period at the club as his first, a talent some embittered pundits who scarcely put a shift in second time around would do well to consider. He was the highest earner at Southampton when he arrived on loan a year ago; £4.5m annually. Celtic were ready to do a deal involving the fee but the keeper prevaricated. Still, as I say, forever a hero.
Fond farewell to Craig Gordon, Jozo Simunovic and Jonny Hayes, all of whom were part of treble successes. Jozo is still without a club and will struggle to make the most of his talents due to injury impairment.
For me, the most surprising outcome of the window was that none of our contracted first choice players were sold, despite the economic situation. Five agents were looking to move their clients south; my informed expectation was, at least one would have to go.
Buying and selling is a gamble, as is not doing so. But, who could gamble with ‘the 10’? When we report our financials soon, there will have been money for at year-end date, 30 June 2020. That will be the last of having savings for some time, we are about to lurch into debt.
The economic headwinds look ominous. Next year, season book renewals will not promote ‘the 10’ and aggregate supporter bank balances will be lower. Like now, next season will also be one where the ‘supporters’ step up, perhaps not the more casual fans.
Upshot of all of this is that we are going to need to get a Champions League qualification and trading policy in place rapidly. Celtic are better placed to meet these times than the vast majority of others; there will be better value in the player market, but only for those clubs who are prepared.
Welcome, Diego, and well played, Celtic.