When Celtic shelled out £3.5m to Israeli side Maccabi Petah Tikva to sign a 19-year-old winger a few eyebrows were raised. As Liel Abada became the third player to join the Dream Dozen of Ange Postecoglou’s squad revolution it was hard not to wonder if this lad was a Postecoglu signing, particularly with the involvement of Dudu Dahan as the agent who helped broker the deal. Yet it’s fair to say young Abada certainly looks a player and Ange Postecoglou is delighted.
Prior to joining the Hoops Abada had already played 76 times for his club, his return of 20 goals and 10 assists in that time were highly impressive for one so young, and since joining Celtic it appears the change in culture, football and expectation, having come from a club with small attendances, has been taken in his stride.
Injury to James Forrest has meant Abada has been thrown in at the deep end and early indications are the boy has a hell of a breast stroke. In ten appearances he’s scored four goals and assisted four others and even when Forrest has been fit enough for selection Abada’s form saw him keep his shirt and Forrest operate on the left-hand side of Celtic’s front three.
Abada now also has two international caps for his country and is in a position where he could be at Hampden in October lining up against his Captain and trying to stop Scotland’s push for a play-off place for the World Cup. This is a youngster going places that’s for sure.
Yet there are already some misgivings amongst the support, particularly after a quiet game at Ibrox, but such concerns surely need to be tempered when you consider the age of the player we’ve signed. Had Liel Abada come through Celtic’s academy and had he not been weighted by a hefty transfer fee there would be a great degree of patience offered to that player, and Liel Abada really should be no different.
Young players after all are inconsistent at the best of times, add that to a position on the football field where there is more inconsistency than most then there has to be scope for patience. Wingers after all are reliant on service, it is much harder from the touchline to get involved in driving the game yourself as a central midfielder could do, instead you often have to bide your time, offer yourself for the ball and impact as much as you can when you receive it.
The interesting thing so far with Abada is just how confident he appears in his own ability, there appears a very direct style to his play where he simply wishes to commit his man and supply a delivery or link with others to fashion opportunities for himself. And that appear no different if he’s playing at a domestic level or on the European stage. Two of his goals have so far come in the league, yet he has also found the net in Europa league qualifying and in Champions League qualifying, so far that seems to indicate a player who is meeting every challenge laid in front of him.
The next step of course will be the Europa League group stages, the standard of opposition will now also go up a notch or two. Will Abada be able to cope when the atmosphere is ramped up at Celtic Park and how will he fare away from home against clubs of the standard of Betis, Leverkusen and Ferencvaros with vociferous and partisan home crowds, alongside a step up in standard of direct opponent?
Well early indications are Liel Abada simply ups his own game with most of the challenges he’s faced so far, and with James Forrest still seemingly not quite back to fitness, Abada has the opportunity to evidence he is a player who can perform on the European stage. Should he do just that then James Forrest will have more than just injury blocking his way to the team, he’ll have the third of Postecoglou’s Dream Dozen of signings making a valid claim to be a first pick.
On the evidence offered so far you wouldn’t put it past Liel Abada to have a real impact on Celtic’s European nights and dispel a few of those doubts about his consistency. Form is temporary after all but class is permanent and Liel Abada certainly adds more than a touch of class to this Celtic team.