BELGIAN international Joos Valgaeren was one of Martin O’Neill’s first signings for Celtic when he splashed £3.8million to land the versatile ace from Roda JC in July 2000.
The 6ft-plus defender had attracted the attention of the new Hoops boss with stand-out performances during that summer’s Euro Finals and the Irishman had to move quick with English clubs – most notably Leeds United and Sunderland – showing interest.
O’Neill favoured a central defensive trio and Valgaeren joined Bobo Balde and Johan Mjallby in a formidable backline.
AIR RAID…Joos Valgaeren puts the pressure on Motherwell with Henrik Larsson watching.
The adaptable performer, who could also play full-back, was not a noted goalscorer, but he hit the headlines with a superb effort in a rollicking 4-3 Champions League triumph over Juventus in October 2001 and add another in a 2-1 success over Rangers a month later.
Valgaeren was forced to limp out of Celtic’s 3-2 extra-time UEFA Cup Final loss to Jose Mourinho’s Porto in Seville in May 2003 which didn’t help the Parkhead club’s cause on a memorable – if not victorious – occasion.
Injuries hampered the back-four operator’s fourth year at the club and he left when his contract expired at the end of season 2004/05. He lifted three titles, three Scottish Cups and one League during his spell in Glasgow.
The popular Hoops performer returned to his homeland with Club Brugge KV and three years later he switched to FC Emmen. He retired from playing at the age of 34 in 2009.
The last word goes to Valgaeren. Years after leaving Glasgow, the former Hoops star said: “I played five years for a beautiful club, so it is now in my blood. I am a supporter, if only from a distance.”
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss the adventures of another former Celt in CQN’s EXCLUSIVE series.