Those of us wanting to bury the memory of the January 2009 transfer window now have the opportunity. Summer 2018 eclipsed not paying £4m for an injury-prone Hibernian striker, while capturing Willo Flood in what appeared to be a reluctant afterthought, by some distance.
To wonder where it started to go wrong, we have to look back at this January’s window. Celtic knew Dedryck Boyata was about to enter the last year of his contract and had been unable to get him to sign a new deal. An acknowledgement was made that this summer was the right time to sell him, so the priority for January was to acquire a direct replacement.
To this end, Marvellous Marvin Compper (then 32) was recruited from Leipzig, where he had been completely out of the picture, having suffered an injury last summer. While Jack Hendry also joined the club in January, he was considered a player with development potential, it was believed Compper would slot straight into the role Boyata filled.
It took Brendan Rodgers 83 minutes to realise this was never going to be the case. The player made two 45 minute appearances in the previous six months, the most recent in September, and was well short of what was required at Celtic. Scouting opportunities must have been limited to reserve football, if that.
Having missed the target so badly in January we started this window playing catch-up. Dedryck was denied a transfer to Fulham, which would have been accepted if Marvin was up to the task. He is not the first Celtic central defender in recent years to declare himself unable to play because he wanted a move, but his agent threw the matter into the public domain. The goals we lost against AEK will hang over the player.
Hibs John McGinn joined Aston Villa when Celtic thought he was coming here. Brendan Rodgers made his displeasure known on the next three occasions he met the media, sparking a media feeding frenzy. Unlike Boyata, McGinn would not have made a difference to our Champions League qualification campaign, but we are short for backup in his central midfield space.
Deadline day started with nothing more than a training session planned at Celtic but Moussa Dembele threw a strop. Late the previous evening he used Twitter to imply he had been lied to, then liked a Tweet by Chris Sutton asserting he was having a go at the manager. Ironically, and before witnesses, a few hours later he told the manager no one had lied to him. We lost our best striker on deadline day without replacing him, and most fans were glad to see him off the premises.
Amid all of the angst, the almost forgotten fact is that this was the window we broke our transfer record fee for the first time in 18 years. Odsonne Eduard arrived for £9m from PSG, but as he was here on loan last season, so not an enhancement to the squad.
We lost Stuart Armstrong and Patrick Roberts ended his multi-year loan. Both played less prominent roles last season than earlier, so their departure will not weaken our first choice line-up, but limits options the manager has, when tactics, injuries and suspensions require a change.
Lewis Morgan arrived from St Mirren, while Daniel Arzani came in on a two year loan from Manchester City. Hopefully one or both can fit into the Roberts role. Youssouf Mulumbu was a player who begged the question, ‘How did he end up at Kilmarnock?’ last season. The player looks the genuine article, and at 31, is younger than others who have arrived late in their career and excelled, but it remains to be seen if he can deliver for Celtic.
With central defence looking as vulnerable as we have seen it in years, Filip Benkovic arrived on loan from Leicester City.
By any measure, this was not a good transfer window. Last season we were schooled in the Champions League, not just by PSG, but by Anderlecht, at home. Granted, we outplayed Anderlecht in Belgium, but when the Belgians replaced their manager, they looked streets ahead.
My hope was that we would do a fair amount of trading. Move on those who would produce high fees and acquire players who can immediately enhance the first team. This did not happen and players like John McGinn would make no difference.
Progress in football is never linear. We had two years of unparalleled domestic success and Champions League football, but are still largely playing with a squad Ronny Deila had. Only Ntcham and Edouard were added to Sunday’s team by Brendan Rodgers. In short, it is not only the last two windows we need to analyse critically, the squad stopped improving after Scott Sinclair arrived in 2016.
I am sure lessons have been learned at Celtic but doing something about it is not always straightforward. Our scouting and recruitment resources do not match our Champions League ambitions. My expectations are the wage bill will be eye-watering hits a new peak when we see the accounts, I don’t think we can safely overhaul the structure and, say, offer the £50k/week levels now standard in England, but there is money for transfer fees, as the accounts will also show.
Despite that critique of our scouting, we acquired Dembele, Edouard, Ntcham and Sinclair over a short period. We have a model that works for us, but not this time. It is perhaps a mercy that the Champions League music will be missing this season, as we are miles short of what is required.
Petrov v Milner
More positively, get along to see the Petrov Milner game on Saturday. You can indulge in watching many of the greatest who have worn Celtic shirts over the last two decades.