Written by Gavin Miller for Pure Fitbaw
Trouble is brewing in paradise as Celtic are in dire need of adding new blood to a squad that is about to come up against their biggest test in recent years. There seems to be a disconnect between manager Brendan Rodgers and the Celtic board in terms of their transfer policy and, given the improvements that Rangers, Hibs and Hearts have made this summer as well as the difficulty of navigating multiple Champions League qualifying rounds, this is happening at a critical time. In the green and white hoops you are always only as good as your last performance and it already seems like so long ago that the club made history with a double treble.
Pure Fitbaw has some potential solutions to shore up the Celtic backline but first let’s examine why a fix is needed before August 31st when the transfer window closes.
- The right-back slot is a huge cause for concern due to the current options being the long serving Mikael Lustig who is declining due to age, Costa Rican international Cristian Gamboa who is also declining in capability and youngster Anthony Ralston who has not progressed at the anticipated rate and indeed recently had a poor loan spell. Rodgers must see this as his team’s biggest weakness and if Celtic are to progress against AEK Athens and hit that next level that Rodgers has referred to on many occasions this is no longer a nice to have but is now somewhat of a panic position.
- Jack Hendry is not Celtic class (yet). The former Dundee defender was bullied by Kyle Lafferty, Steven Naismith and Uche Ikpeazu in Celtic’s recent defeat by Hearts and the young centre-back can often be left looking like a rabbit in the headlights. He has all the tools to develop into a good centre-back but if Hendry was exposed to Champions League group stage football at this time it might do more harm than good.
- Losing head of recruitment David Moss in 2017 is perhaps the biggest blow that Celtic have suffered recently off the pitch. Moss helped bring talents such as Virgil Van Dijk and Victor Wanyama to Celtic. Celtic brought in Lee Congerton as a replacement and Rodgers knows him well from their time as Chelsea coaches but the new man’s more recent spells at Hamburg and as Sunderland’s head of recruitment are a cause for concern. If Celtic fans need one example to worry about in relation to Congerton it would be his £10 million purchase of, and bumper contract handed to, Jack Rodwell but he made many other poor purchases for Sunderland which contributed to the club’s fall through the tiers of English football.
- Rodgers is clearly a good coach but, as a manager, his one flaw has always been recruitment. At Liverpool his team played a similar style to what he uses now at Celtic but he bought Christian Benteke for £32.5 million which did not seem like a good fit from a playing standpoint given the player was most known for his aerial prowess. In addition he signed Mario Balotelli, often criticised for his lack of effort, for £16 million despite the the fact that Rodgers relies on a high press and work rate. It seemed obvious even before those deals were concluded that they were not a good match for what was needed.
- Dedryck Boyata is out of contract in 12 months and his agent has recently insinuated that Celtic have gone back on a promise made to the player that if a bid of the right amount was made by the right level of club then he would be free to leave. Reports of a rejected £8 million bid from Fulham appears to have triggered the agent’s outbursts and now Boyata seems to be refusing to play. Decisive action is needed in relation to this situation.
This may seem like quite a damning indictment to a club that has made so much history in recent seasons but the above points are some harsh realities and if Celtic don’t act fast their domestic dominance may come to an end and they certainly will find it difficult to make progress in European competition. The atmosphere at Celtic Park was overwhelmingly positive just three months ago but, whether Rodgers’ recent public courting of the board to back him and comments about targets should be seen as real threats to his long term position, the feeling around the club does seem to have changed.
Pure Fitbaw have pulled together a shortlist to help Rodgers get his boys in green firing again and steady the defensive frailties.
Rodgers may be tempted to raid his former club and opt for a more experienced centre-back as the club has enough projects right now with Ajer and Hendry so an actual defensive leader to organise the back four and more of just get the job done type might be more appealing to Celtic. Ragnar Klavan would offer a wealth of experience with over 124 caps for Estonia and 4 years spent in the Bundesliga which led to him being picked up by Jurgen Klopp to add depth to his squad.
The returning Joe Gomez and the vastly improved Dejan Lovren has seen Klavan fall down the pecking order on Merseyside. Klavan is entering his final 12 months with Liverpool and could be available for a knockdown price. The Estonian centreback has the ability to play out from the back but most importantly his game management and leadership qualities should really help produce better performances from Ajer and Hendry.
Denis Vavro is a 22 year old Slovakian international who currently plys his trade in the Danish Superliga for FC. Copenhagen and, as a result, is more of an unknown in the UK market than Klavan but the powerful centre back would certainly fit the bill for Celtic’s transfer model. Young, physical and with the potential to improve due to playing alongside better quality players and having a better coach he could ultimately lead to a decent profit for Celtic.
Having already featured in this years Europa League Vavro would be cup-tied until the group stages of the Champions League or Europa League depending on how Celtic perform in their upcoming game against AEK Athens.
Vavro is likely to cost upwards of the £4 million mark as he signed a 5 year contract with the Danish outfit so it would be quite a big investment for Celtic but at this stage it’s important the investments are right for the long term of the club as opposed to expensive aging flops like Kolo Toure and Marvin Commper so he could be a smart pick up.
Another that not many will know of but the PEC Zwolle right back Kingsley Ehizbue would be a fantastic fit for Celtic. The 23 year old Dutch/Nigerian/German is known for his attacking abilities and driving at defenders and offering a lot of pace down the right flank to overlap and overload space in the attacking transitions. As you will see from Ehizbue goal in the video above that the fullback does like to drift into the middle which again can create space and overloads for other players, something that might appeal to Brendan Rodgers.
Ehizbue certainly fits into the transfer model Celtic have been operating. He would improve in Scotland, catch the eye in European competition, potentially be called up to the Dutch or Nigerian national team and the return on investment is all but sealed. The young full-back would be an instant upgrade over the current crop of Celtic full-backs and would offer another attacking dimension for Rodgers to plot with.
We want to hear from you on what you think Brendan Rodgers should do and who you would like to see brought in over on our twitter as these are just a few players we think fit the ‘Celtic mould’. There are no concrete links to any of these players but they certainly feel like the sort of individuals Congerton should be suggesting to Rodgers and the fees that Celtic could command should the latter two develop and be sold on in a few seasons should tempt the board into loosening the purse strings.