Holding onto top stars more important than new signings

As speculation continues to swirl around Celtic Park regarding some of our tops stars potentially leaving this January, it’s got me thinking about what will be the most important outcome regarding our squad come the end of the month.

Nicolas Kuhn, photo Celtic FC

Supporters are getting restless due to our inactivity so far during this transfer window. So far we have only brought in one new face, and it was to cover a position most of us felt was already aptly covered. Nicolas Kühn may prove a shrewd piece of business but at the start of this window most Celtic fans would have probably been in agreement that the positions most needed upgraded would have been left back, striker and perhaps goalkeeper, although that may be able to wait until the summer.

Fans are starting to worry that as the days pass by we seem no closer to bringing in any new recruits, and I get that. It’s good to freshen up the squad in January with a few new faces to add competition for places. I’m hugely confident we will bring in at least one if not two new players before the month is out.

We all know that January is a hard time to recruit as teams don’t like selling players unless they have replacements lined up. That’s why most of the business is done in the last few days. Look across the board at teams in Scotland, England etc, there hasn’t actually been that much business done yet. It will happen however, and to be honest I would take one top player coming in over three squad fillers.

Cameron Carter-Vickers during the UEFA Champions League match between Celtic and SS Lazio at Celtic Park on October 04, 2023 Photo GreigCowie Sportsphoto/APL

To me however there is something far more important than that and that is Celtic hanging on to our top players. So far this month we have had speculation about our best defender Cameron Carter-Vickers. According to reports he is subject to interest from Premier League teams West Ham, Brentford and Nottingham Forest.

Celtic v Buckie Thistle – Liel Abada in action during the Scottish Cup match at Celtic Park on Sunday January 21, 2024. Photo Andrew Milligan

We have also been surrounded by rumours that our best winger, Liel Abada, could be heading on loan to a Championship club. West Brom, Southampton and Watford are some of the names supposedly interested.

Matt O’Riley of Celtic celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Hearts and Celtic FC at Tynecastle on October 22, 2023 (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Then we have probably the best player in our squad right now Matt O’Riley. Sky Sports have today revealed that Atletico Madrid are the latest team looking to purchase our star man after earlier reports of interest from Girona and Inter Milan.

It’s not surprising that there are rumours abound regarding these three players. All three have been excellent for Celtic since their arrival under Ange Postecoglou and seem to be progressing even further under Brendan Rodgers. Carter-Vickers and Abada have both had their seasons interrupted by injury but when they have played you see their importance to this Celtic squad.

Then you have O’Riley who to me has been head and shoulders above anyone in Scotland so far this season. I honestly believe the sky is the limit for this young man.

Wanyama’s goal against Barcelona in 2012.

Celtic have built a strong reputation over the past ten years or so as a selling club who produce good players. Many clubs have bought players from us and watched on as they more than justified their transfer fees. Players such as Victor Wanyama, Virgil Van Dijk, Odsonne Édouard, Kris Ajer and Kieran Tierney have all gone on to  prove they can perform at a high level in more difficult leagues. The problem with this is it has led to more eyes on us from the bigger leagues. We can’t keep the likes of O’Riley a secret for too long before scouts around Europe start sniffing out a bargain.

In years gone past we have perhaps let our top players leave too early, and often for too little. There is no denying the club runs successfully using the ‘buy reasonably cheap and sell for a substantial profit’ model but at some point if you want to progress you need to retain some of your top players for more than 2-3 years. Surely this is something Brendan Rodgers discussed before agreeing to return to Celtic?

Brendan Rodgers, gives a thumbs-up at full-time following the team’s victory in the Cinch Scottish Premiership match against theRangers at Celtic Park on December 30, 2023. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

It’s imperative we hang on to these players this month. We are in a tightly fought battle for the league title this season. We also have the Scottish Cup to defend. We need our top players more than ever. If the transfer window closed at the end of the month and we had signed nobody else but retained all our top players I wouldn’t be massively disappointed.

In no way am I saying the club shouldn’t be out there giving everything to try and bring in one or two fresh faces but it is vitally important we do not lose our biggest stars. All three players mentioned are on long term contracts. The interest will still be there come the summer and if anything their value will probably only continue to rise.

So here’s hoping we manage to bring a few in over the next week, but whatever you do Celtic do not sell the family silver, no matter what cash is on offer. There’s a lucrative Scottish Premiership title to be won and the icing on the cake of another Scottish Cup. Then and only then should we look towards player trading for key performers who want to take the next step in their careers.

Conall McGinty

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About Author

Hailing from Cushendall in the North of Ireland my formative years were spent watching Celtic during our barren spell through the 90's which meant I have appreciated our recent trophy-laden spell even more. Favourite matches home and away I've attended has to be beating Man Utd 1-0 at Celtic Park and being with my 2 brothers watching us beat Lazio 2-1 in Rome. Best away day experience? Has to be Munich with friends from Coatbridge...what a few days!

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