Summer Transfer Window 2017 Preview:Well, it's nearly that time of year again. The season is all over and every domestic trophy available is safely tucked away within the Parkhead trophy room where it belongs. For the invincible playing squad, a few weeks of rest now begins in Dubai, Marbella, Monaco or wherever it is footballer's enjoy jetting off to nowadays. In addition, Brendan Rodgers will also enjoy some well earned time off, after a staggering opening campaign in Scotland. However, his mind will still be firmly focused upon now improving a team in the upcoming months which has no doubt surpassed all expectations he had at the outset of last season, with the Summer Transfer window just days away from officially opening.
The transformation of this Hoops squad over the past 12 months has been nothing short of remarkable, and, going into next season, the current crop would still of course remain heavy favourites for the league title and even another treble. At a club like Celtic though, there is very rarely any time to stand still and admire your success, with the pressure always on to continually improve and deliver more trophies. Luckily though, there is only minor 'tweaking' needed in terms of players who are likely to come in, with Rodgers stating numerous times that he will only look to add players who can make an instant improvement to the side as a whole, which suggests that Celts fans can look forward to perhaps 2 or 3 real quality additions this summer.
As a result, the heaviest amount of activity is likely to involve the squad members who are no longer required at Lennoxtown, with many suggesting - including Rodgers himself - that the squad is still somewhat bloated and in need of clearing. If the gaffer can manage to do this while still adding 2 or 3 quality additions in key areas, then Celtic will be all set for another trophy laden season under their latest Northern Irish hero.
Who, what and where?First and foremost, one of the biggest conundrums for Rodgers and the Celtic recruiting staff is deciding where to strengthen, and, most importantly, who to do it with.
- WHO should be targeted?
- WHAT will they bring to a squad already flush with confidence and talent?
- WHERE on the park will they play?
It certainly won't be an easy task. The market the club find themselves in can so often be fickle, with players in the £2-4m bracket providing no guarantees at all. Yes, there are no sureties with any transfer, but even less so in this price stage. With the Champions League money from last season in the bank however, and a board behind him every step of the way, Rodgers could well be afforded slightly more room to manoeuvre this summer in comparison to other manager's in recent years, especially as the quality that he desires to further enhance this squad, does not come cheap.
To aid him in his quest to find the next Celtic Park heroes, the gaffer has drafted in an old friend in Lee Congerton, who was appointed as head of recruitment back in March of this year. The 43 year old Welshman comes with an already pretty impressive CV, having worked at Chelsea, Hamburg and Sunderland, although admittedly, with mixed success. Here at Celtic however, he has a fresh start and the opportunity to challenge himself with a budget he has not normally been accustomed to. One thing is for certain, he brings a wealth of experience even at such a relatively young age, and, in turn, will have multiple contacts which we can put to good use.
Man with a plan: Congerton is unveiled at Lennoxtown
So, who will he be looking at? Well, recent rumours suggest an interest in the likes of versatile defender Martin Caceres, Aberdeen's Jonny Hayes and Championship POTY John McGinn. In truth however, I feel these rumours are just paper talk. The fact is no-one outside of Celtic really has a clue about our transfer dealings, with the press especially often being left with egg on their faces when it comes to players signing out of the blue (see Moussa Dembele as a prime example). What us fans can speculate on however, is the positions which need seeing to. In my opinion, there are three main areas which we will look at this coming summer....
Despite good seasons for Simunovic and Sviatchenko, and the resurgence of Dedryck Boyata, there are still question marks over whether these players have enough to stem the tide at Champions League level. All are talented, no doubt, however another quality addition to this area would not harm Celtic's chances at all, while also adding greater depth. I feel that if we do target this area, it must be for a more experienced, 'battle hardened' type who can add to the qualities the other 3 players all possess. With Kolo Toure set to leave his playing days behind as well, there is added importance on getting in another leader at the back. Toure's presence - both on and off the park - early in the season was vital in guiding us through the latter qualifying stages and will be sorely missed this time around, if he is indeed to go. This type of player doesn't necessarily need to be another veteran in his late 30's either, as experience and leadership can come even at an age of 27-28. Someone around this stage of their career would be perfect, I feel.
Admittedly, the players already in this area have been revelations this season, with the likes of McGregor and Armstrong enjoying incredible spells of form throughout and proving their worth as Celtic players, while captain Scott Brown has reached peak levels of both form and fitness. Nevertheless, since his arrival, Rodgers has spoke of bringing in a top level centre midfielder, a player he has a described as a typical 'number 8' who has the ability to pick a pass, while creating and controlling a game even at the highest level. Last summer, there were rumours of this kind of player being Rodgers' primary target, and he was said to be dissapointed to have missed out on getting one in.
Now, on paper, this sounds like a very expensive type of player to bring in, and it probably is. However they are out there, perhaps not at the very top level yet, but operating in lesser known leagues. A player like this would further enhance a talented midfield and give us that extra 'something' on a European level and one can definitely see Rodgers' thinking here. Ball retention in Europe has been a problem for Celtic sides in the recent past and was something the Northern Irishman highlighted early on in his tenure. Despite finishing bottom of the group, the players showed an increased calmness and awareness on the biggest European stage last season. If we are to have any hope of progressing to the Last 16 or reaching the latter stages of the Europa in the years to come, Rodgers must continue to build on this ability. Managing to find a midfielder like the aforementioned would really help in doing so.
Left and Right Wing:
Now, I hate to bring it up, but, Patrick Roberts may not be with us next season. I know, I know. It hurts to even bare thinking about it, however the reality is Manchester City may seek to either give him a well deserved chance, or loan him out to a league they deem of a better quality than up here in Scotland. Every Celtic fan will be hoping that an agreement for his safe return North can be reached, however, if not, a replacement will have to be found for that right wing, and I'm sure we have a number of names lined up. The Nigerian winger Henry Onyekru is one who has continually been linked since we first had a bid rejected back in January. Now though, it seems we are too late, with a whole host of clubs from across the continent lining up for his signature, after he hit even more scintilating form in the second half of the season. Just our luck. Either way, this area has to be of primary importance for Rodgers, as someone with the creative guile and goalscoring ability as Roberts, will not be easy to come by.
I also feel that an additional winger will need to be acquired. Currently we have 4 main men within the 1st team picture. Sinclair, Roberts, Forrest and Mackay-Steven. With at least 2 of their futures in the air however (Roberts and Mackay-Steven), we could soon be looking very light heading into the Champions league qualifiers. Once the Roberts situation is resolved and the right hand side is covered, another wide man with pace, directness and scoring ability would be ideal ahead of what is set to be another busy and long season. In all honesty, I would bring one in regardless of whether or not Mackay-Steven departs or not, as I don't feel he is near the level required. A skillful player, of course, however his inconsistency is a massive problem and we will need better within the squad if we are to harbour any hopes of further European progression.
Will he or won't he?: The Patrick Roberts saga could play out all Summer long
Time to say goodbye:Turning average looking, under performing players into stars and born winners is the sign of a top class manager and Brendan has managed to do that, however this summer will be the next step on the road to what he hopes will be further glory. As much as there has been a massive improvement in this squad, there are still numerous question marks hovering over a number of its members. After such an incredible season, it would be easy to forget that this Celtic side is still very much in its infancy under Rodgers, and, as such, is still being moulded into one which suits his own vision.
So, that begs the question of who is going to be shown the exit door? Well, straight away, I feel there are some obvious candidates, all of which are listed below;
- Gary Mackay Steven: Firmly on the fringes and not really of the standard required now unfortunately, as previously mentioned
- Nadir Ciftci: Similar to the above. A £1.5m flop who is nowhere near the side and never has been under Rodgers. With numerous failed loan spells now behind him, it is surely bye bye time
- Saidy Janko: Farmed out on loan in August of last year after some nerve jangling European performances. Arrived at Celtic with promise but looks dodgy defensively and unlikely to displace any of the current RB's
- Logan Bailly: Hasn't had a sniff under Rodgers and looks all but certain to go
- Efe Ambrose: Looks a certainty to join his former gaffer at Hibs
- Scott Allan: Not a terrible player but definitely no place for him in this squad
- Liam Henderson: This is a difficult one as he clearly has talent, however I expected him to get more opportunities towards the end of the season and they never came. Might get another loan move
Those mentioned above are mostly all on the very fringes of the squad, however there are two players who are more accustomed to 1st team action who I feel could be for the off in the coming months...
This is a difficult one to judge, and one which I am personally torn on. When he first arrived it seemed as though Erik and Celtic Football Club were a match made in heaven both on and off the park. Us fans took to him, he took to us, and his good lady wife even signed up for the club's womens team. He featured regularly under Rodgers in the first half of the season, however, after a loss of form before the turn of the year and Boyata re-appearing from the cold in February, the Dane has found life difficult in Glasgow for the very first time, even prompting rumours of a move to England in the January window. On the face of it he appears happy and is well at home within the squad. I can't help but get the feeling however that Rodgers does not see him as a long term option and, Erik himself might want guarantees of regular football, which may not come. Personally, I would like him to stay as I feel he is still a good, reliable defender on his day and will be needed over the course of next season. Don't be surprised to see Rodgers wield the axe, however!
This one certainly seems more likely to happen, for me. I actually like Nir Biton, and, despite the regular criticism he receives from large sections of the support, feel he has his uses. However it is clear he is not going to be a regular starter under Rodgers and his own 'distinct' style isn't suited to what the gaffer wants and needs from his midfielders. When he has been in the side this past season I don't think he has been terrible and has in fact been a great asset from the bench at numerous times when the game has had to be slowed down or have its tempo altered. The arrival of Eboue Kouassi in January could provide an insight into his long term future at the club though and with a contract until 2020 and a decent reputation, he is one member of the squad who could perhaps be readily sacrificed for a good price, in order for it to be re-invested.
Could it be the end of the road for Erik and Nir?
Well, as previously mentioned, I think we can expect to see at least 2-4 signings this summer in key areas, all of which should be of a good calibre in order to add to what is already present within the current squad. At the same time, numerous players are likely to leave but this is always the way of it every summer, the only real debate to be had is who exactly it is to go. For the first time in a number of seasons though, I have complete confidence in the manager, board and recruiting staff heading into this window and can see us fans being more than happy with the look of the squad come the beginning of September. I'm sure I'm not the only one with that feeling either.
What to expect:
Dermot Desmond has recently stated that the aim is to be a Champions League Last 16 side once again which suggests that he will back Rodgers to the hilt, as you would expect. The gaffer is relentless though and I am almost certain that Lee Congerton and co have been working on their targets for months now, with only the latter stages of deals to be finalised. Here is hoping for a straight forward, stress free transfer window for once...
Any suggestions on who to sign? Disagree with any of the above? Or want to join in the transfer discussion throughout the summer? Pop into the forum's transfer section and have your say...