Celtic's Summer Transfer Window Debrief
What a final transfer deadline day that was yesterday. Celtic finally secured the services of a left back in the guise of Kilmarnock’s Greg Taylor and while there was no dream return for Victor Wanyama, we did snap up Jeremie Frimpong and Lee O’Connor from Manchester City and Manchester United respectively.
Criticism had been levelled at both Neil Lennon and Peter Lawwell for not pulling their fingers out earlier in the summer transfer window to strengthen the side. And Celtic fans will look to the defeat against Cluj to prove a point that business must be done earlier rather than trying to gamble with Champions League qualification - but that’s in the past now and we look towards Celtic securing their ninth title in a row and participation in the Europa League group stages.
Albeit it sounds like Rangers have won the league already, days after losing 2-0 to Celtic, with the signing of Ryan Kent.
So while Rangers fans select their first ever league title won in September, let us all console ourselves with the ELEVEN players that were signed by Celtic this summer.
Christopher Jullien - Toulouse
Celtic’s biggest outlay of the summer, Christopher Jullien signed from Toulouse in a £7 million deal - making him our second most expensive signing behind fellow compatriot Odsonne Edouard.
A bit of a rocky start to his career during a Betfred Cup game against Dunfermline and fans questioned his absence in the defeat to Cluj, but the towering French defender has already come into his game and was solid as a rock against Rangers on Sunday - following on from an assured defensive performance against AIK to secure Europa League group stage football. WIth a goal to boot also.
It is expected that Jullien will link up with Kristoffer Ajer in the heart of Celtic’s defence - once the Norwegian comes back from an injury picked up during the AIK clash. But he was far from fazed playing alongside the impressive Nir Bitton on Sunday and also Hatem Abd Elhamed when the former had to go off injured.
Simunovic will almost certainly be looked upon as a back-up to both Ajer and Jullien now.
A £7 million buy that can truly help to win the title.
Luca Connell - Bolton Wanderers
Signed during pre-season, Luca Connell left financially stricken Bolton Wanderers to sign for Celtic. While I have not seen much of the kid - other than his pre-season friendly appearance against Rennes - he looked assured on the ball, strong and certainly had an eye for the game.
While he won’t be a first team regular this season, he will almost certainly look to play some part in the team during some cup ties and at the tail end of the season.
If his development continues to progress, then he could very well be a consideration to replace Scott Brown in the heart of midfield - when the Celtic skipper finally calls time on his playing career.
Boli Bolingoli - Rapid Vienna
Signed just before Kieran Tierney made the move to Arsenal, the first few games into his Celtic career after his £3 million signing from Rapid Vienna - were less than impressive as he was criticised for not being Kieran Tierney, for not being defensively minded and lacking awareness on the pitch.
Since then however, he has improved and while he is more of an attacking wing back in my opinion rather than a left back - he has finally settled at Celtic and the post-match celebrations at Ibrox on Sunday showed that he is loving life with the Scottish champions.
He will almost certainly battle with the likes of Greg Taylor for the left back slot, while a change of formation could see him playing further forward at times with Taylor behind him.
Certainly not the finished article and still has a lot to prove, but it is time that he is analysed on his own game rather than comparing him to Kieran Tierney.
Hatem Abd Elhamed
Even before he had touched down in Scotland, Elhamed was rubbished by elements of the Celtic support. They didn’t want to see another Dudu Dahan flop at the club, his playing career was less than impressive and he looked a failure. Oh how wrong were they?
As soon as he made his debut in the 7-0 thumping of St.Johnstone at the start of August, everyone knew that we had a player on our hands. He was robust, he was fast, he was strong, he loved to get forward and loved to put in a tackle or two as well.
Following on from the much loved Mikael Lustig was always going to be a tough job and with a number of injuries picked up already, the 28-year-old has much more to give Celtic this season and it will be exciting to see him fully fit and on top of his game.
Sunday’s performance against Rangers was his best to date and that was with a hairline fracture and playing through the pain barrier. His goal saving tackle of Jermain Defoe was a joy to behold and with the likes of Christopher Jullien, Kris Ayer in the centre of defence - the trio of defenders along with Bolingoli or Taylor will prove to be the perfect extension to La Grand Muralla in goals.
We seemed to be shipping a few goals at the start of this season with an emphasis being put on our attacking play, but with our defence looking rock solid along with exciting attacking prospects - domestically we will be very hard to beat.
Could a quadruple treble be on the cards?
Another arrival from Southampton, this time on a three year deal, after leaving St.Mary’s at the end of last season.
The Republic of Ireland youth international is a development team signing and will link up with the likes of Armstrong Oko Flex and Karamoko Dembele - as well as the likes of Luca Connell, Lee O’Connor and Jermaine Frimpong. Already the next generation of Celtic players look strong and as mentioned with the other development signings, Afolabi could very well make his debut for Celtic in one of the cup games as we fight on all four fronts - while it is more realistic that he will get a game or two near the end of the season.
In all honesty, I know very little about the kid but will keep an eye on his development as I will with the other signings.
Fraser Forster - Southampton
The return of La Gran Muralla was a cause for celebration among Celtic supporters, even if it was only on a season long loan deal.
A stalwart during his time at Celtic before being sold for £10 million to Southampton in 2014, he was part of Neil Lennon’s side in 2012 that beat La Liga giants Barcelona 2-1 on that famous night. The same night that the Spanish press dubbed the English international ‘La Gran Muralla’.
With Scott Bain out injured for up to two months, the arrival of Fraser Forster was perfect timing to help shore up Celtic’s defensive options. It may be a bit of a kick in the teeth for Craig Gordon, but Forster has shown over the years that he is a quality keeper and one that should be ahead of both Gordon and Bain as Celtic number one.
He made his second debut for Celtic in the 3-1 win over Hearts, where he saved a Connor Washington penalty kick but failed to deny the Hearts player the rebound.
And as for Sunday, he was a virtual spectator and could really have pulled up a chair among the away fans to watch the match he had that very little to do - but when he was called into action he was comfortable enough. He even had time to rip the piss out of Morelos for firing a shot well wide of his goal.
Moritz Bauer - Stoke City
The Austrian international had a bit of a baptism of fire on Sunday, when he came off the bench to replace the injured Nir Bitton in the Glasgow derby.
His signing, just like Elyounoussi’s came from left field with those claiming to be ‘in the know’ and the Scottish mainstream media having no clue about the full back’s arrival from Stoke City on loan until the end of the season.
With little more than a couple of days at Celtic under his belt, Bauer played a solid half hour of football showcasing his trademark long throws that will prove to be a vital tool in Celtic’s attacking arsenal this season. And to round off his debut perfectly, he played a part in injuring Jordan Jones after the Rangers thug tried to do Bauer with a shocking tackle that earned the bitter and hurting Jones a red card as well as a fucked up knee that could see him sidelined for months.
Mohamed Elyounoussi - Southampton
Just like Bauer, Elyounoussi’s signing on loan until the end of the season was a major surprise but one that certainly got the fans excited. Much has been written about the treatment of Scott Sinclair and him effectively being frozen out by manager Neil Lennon for one reason or another - the form of Mikey Johnston as well as the arrival of Elyounoussi from Southampton is an inspired piece of business.
He ripped us to shreds while playing for Molde several years ago in the Europa League and while we had our chance to sign him when Ronny Deila was Celtic manager - Peter Lawwell reportedly baulked at the transfer fee before he moved to Basle in Switzerland.
A £16 million to Southampton followed, but the move came at the wrong time as soon after a change of manager followed and the new Southampton gaffer just didn’t fancy the Norwegian international as part of his squad and so here we are with a £16 million winger at the club looking to prove a point to his club as well as making sure his form secures regular international football alongside teammate Kris Ajer.
Greg Taylor - Kilmarnock
With the surprise transfer of fan favourite Kieran Tierney last month to Arsenal for a cool £25 million, much had been said about the lack of a left back at Celtic. Especially with the fact that Boli Bolingoli had a bit of a mare early on, but the former Rapid Vienna full back now looks to be settling down and has yet to lose a game when playing for Celtic.
While Bolingoli is more attack minded, Taylor is the left back that Celtic need. There are still questions surrounding him on how he can make the step up to play for Celtic, but just like Bolingoli they are not Kieran Tierney and should not be compared to him even if he is still fresh on our memories.
He held his own against Belgium in June for Scotland when Tierney and Robertson were out injured and is already regarded as the best left back in the Scottish game - so it was no great surprise that Kilmarnock wanted the cash rather than the likes of Jack Hendry [on loan] and Calvin Miller as part of the deal.
Unlike Bolingoli, Taylor won’t need time to adjust to playing in the Scottish game, but he will need to adjust to life as a Celtic player and the demands that go with it.
Jeremie Frimpong - Manchester City
A player for the future, Frimpong will almost certainly use this season to learn his trade further ahead of next season with Moritz Bauer returning to Stoke City at the end of his loan deal.
Frimpong had been offered a new deal from City, but after rejecting the ‘take it or leave it’ contract, he made the move north on transfer deadline day after talking to manager Neil Lennon.
He has received glowing reports during his time with Manchester City and caught the eye of the Celtic scouts when City’s Under-23 side played Celtic recently.
Lee O’Connor - Manchester United
Just like Taylor and Frimpong, O’Connor made the move to Celtic on transfer deadline day for an undisclosed fee from Manchester United. Highly-rated by the Old Trafford side after being included in their Champions League squad last season, United fans have already questioned why the club sold him to Celtic.
The final signing of the summer window for Celtic, O’Connor is a versatile defender being able to play across the back line and especially useful as a full back. Not a player for the here and now, but come the tail end of the season he could feature in a few games for Celtic.
The big news over the summer was Kieran Tierney and his £25 million transfer to Arsenal. A move that the player himself wanted after achieving his dreams of playing for Celtic and winning silverware. Not many Celtic fans would wish Tierney any ill feeling towards his move, but many were less than impressed he made the move to Arsenal rather than a bigger in England or on the continent.
Manager Neil Lennon knew that he had a job on his hands when he took over from Brendan Rodgers, and one of the jobs was to get rid of the duds in the team that Rodgers had signed or couldn’t get rid of. Ironically, one of the first to depart was Scott Allan - who Lennon signed a pre-contract deal with in January 2019 when he was Hibs manager.
We have also managed to get Marvin Compper and Youssouf Mulumbu off the books, while Cristian Gamboa and Emilio Izaguirre left at the end of the season after their contracts ended.
Anthony Ralston, Jack Aitchison and Ewan Henderson have all went out on loan to secure more first team football - and I suspect that is the last chance saloon for the likes of Ralston, who needs to impress, but with Celtic’s recent acquisitions it looks like his days at Celtic are numbered.
Fraser Forster’s arrival filled the third goalkeeping slot left void by the departure and retirement of Dorus de Vries. He didn’t really make much of an impact at the club when Rodgers brought him north of the border with both Craig Gordon and Scott Bain knocking him out from between the sticks.
Three players that did make an impact on the team when they departed were Dedryck Boyata, Filip Benkovic and Mikael Lustig. Lustig was an integral part of the Celtic team but the years had caught up with him and last season he was the weak link in Celtic’s defensive armour. While it was a wrench for him to leave the club - and he was shamefully not given a proper send off by the club - Lustig will forever be remembered as a quality Celtic player.
Benkovic’s return to Leicester City was inevitable and only another loan deal would have brought him back to Celtic, but the signing of Christopher Jullien as well as the versatility of Elhamed ended any chance of his return - although I doubt Rodgers wanted to do Celtic a turn after his sleekit departure anyway.
Even Boyata, who spat the dummy last summer, was a blow and his comments after his departure left a sour taste knowing that he would have probably stayed if he had been offered an improved contract. But he had been a divisive figure and was one reason of many for our exit from the Champions League last season at the hands of AEK Athens.
But this summers transfer deals has certainly plugged the gap from those who have departed and significantly increased our options both in defence and in attack.
All in all it was a superb transfer window from Celtic and just goes to show that when business needs to be done, it is done. Not only have we brought signings in for this season, we are also planning ahead and brought in some highly rated youngsters that will almost certainly become the next generation of Celtic players once some of the old guard start to move on.
Maybe just do business a bit quicker next time Peter. After that spending spree I suspect the bold Pete will need a holiday to recover.
If there are still Celtic fans complaining after such a conclusion to the summer transfer window, just delete your account and lock yourself in the cupboard under the stairs. Because we are marching towards our ninth title in a row!