It’s worthwhile going down the road that has proved more successful

It’s worthwhile going down the road that has proved more successful argues Conall McGinty…

Brendan Rodgers, Manager of Celtic, arrives at the stadium prior to the UEFA Champions League match between Celtic FC and Feyenoord at Celtic Park Stadium on December 13, 2023. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

My article yesterday discussed the potential signing of Nicolas Kühn from Austrian side Rapid Vienna and how my personal opinion was that I was feeling rather underwhelmed by it all.

Football is all about opinions and I’ve been happy to write articles over the past few years for the Celtic Star, where unlike some other Celtic sites, our editor will publish our personal opinions on any matter Celtic related without getting involved or try setting a certain narrative. Our opinions are all our own and with a range of writers on this site you are sure to find articles you both agree and disagree with.

Nicolas Kuehn of Germany celebrates the second goal during the U20 international friendly match between Netherlands and Germany at Sportpark Parkzicht on September 08, 2019 in Uden, Netherlands. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images for DFB)

My colleague Just An Ordinary Bhoy produced another great article earlier today stating his opinion on the signing of Kühn, one which he is excited by, and put a lot of interesting points up regarding what quality signings for Celtic really look like. This got me thinking about what market I believe Celtic should be shopping in, which is what I’m going to look at and try to explain below.

Celtic v Aberdeen – Tomoki Iwata and Jota celebrate after the cinch Premiership match at Celtic Park, Saturday May 27, 2023. Photo Andrew Milligan

Firstly I would like to set something straight. I’m a realist. I know the transfer structure at the club. Our current record transfer fee is £9m which we paid PSG for Odsonne Édouard during Brendan Rodgers first spell at the club. Apart from this transfer we have only spent over £6m three times since the days of Martin O’Neill in the early 2000’s. That was £7m for Christopher Jullien, £6.5m for Jota and £6m for Cameron Carter-Vickers.

Odsonne Edouard (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

I also understand the wage structure at the club. We don’t know exact figures but it’s pretty well known that our captain Callum McGregor is the club’s top earner at somewhere between £32-37k per week according to various reports. After Callum the next few top players in our squad earn somewhere in the vicinity of £25k, while most of the rest would be lucky to surpass the £20k mark.

Now to the Average Joe like myself this is unbelievable money, but in today’s football world these figures are low, especially compared to wages being paid in the ‘top five’ leagues. English football right now is on a different level with even average players making a fortune.

Matt O’Riley of Milton Keynes Dons gestures during the Sky Bet League One match between Gillingham and Milton Keynes Dons at MEMS Priestfield Stadium on March 02, 2021 (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)

So where does that leave us? As Just An Ordinary Bhoy said, it leaves us often having to take risks while trying to find a diamond in the rough. I get that. I really do. It’s also brought up how we have reaped the rewards of this policy before, with Matt O’Riley a prime example. I agree that we often have to take this route, and in the past we have done well on certain players who have came under the radar and excelled. We shouldn’t be over doing it however. I still think we need to push the boat out from time to time and shop in a slightly higher market.

Cameron Carter-Vickers of Celtic celebrates after Kyogo Furuhashi scores their team’s second goal during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Rangers FC and Celtic FC at on January 02, 2023.Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Let me go back to our four highest transfer fees. Édouard, Jullien, Jota and Carter-Vickers. All have been hugely successful buys who made our team better by some distance. Our output was large but we were paying for elite players. On top of this let’s look at what we sold them for. Édouard went to Crystal Palace for somewhere around the £15m mark, a £6m profit.

Jota went for around £25m, an £11m profit after Benfica got their sell-on share, Jullien’s time at Celtic was ruined by a horrendous knee injury after colliding with the goal frame but before that was a mainstay in a hugely successful team. He ended up leaving for £1m in the end at a £6m loss. Cameron Carter-Vickers was bought for £6m and thankfully is still here, but if he was to leave anytime soon Celtic would be looking over £15m at least.

Christopher Jullien of Celtic celebrates with the Betfred Cup after victory over theRangers at Hampden on 8 December, 2019. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

This shows that when we have pushed the boat out we have been successful. All four of the players I discussed were excellent for Celtic, with only Jullien recording a loss rather than a profit but as we all know his time at Celtic was ruined the moment he sustained that awful knee injury. I know that spending money doesn’t always lead to success in the transfer market but our past record on this does look good.

As I said earlier I am realistic about these things. We are not going to be signing anyone who has already made a name for themselves in the Premier League. The transfer fees and wages down there are ridiculous. It actually annoys me when I read about us being linked to established players from the EPL when you know that most are way outside our wage structure.

Nobody is going to leave the EPL and take a massive pay cut to come to Scotland, no matter the appeal that playing for Celtic so obviously brings. Other leagues however have players within our price range. We aren’t going to be signing players from the top six clubs in Spain, Germany, Italy but there are definitely talented players in the other top flight teams within those countries that could be in our price range.

Celtic v Dundee  – cinch Premiership – Celtic Park Celtic s Paulo Bernardo during the cinch Premiership match at Celtic Park,  Saturday September 16, 2023. Photo Andrew Milligan

Then we have the big clubs in smaller leagues. Teams similar to ourselves. Look at Benfica. We got Jota from them and now this season Bernardo, who we are starting to see is a hugely talented player. We pay similar wages as the likes of Benfica, Porto, Ajax, Feyenoord, Anderlecht, FC Copenhagen so we should be looking at talented players within their squads.

If we are looking at players of this calibre we know they have experience and quality as they have most likely been playing in European competition too. Most will also have the type of mindset we are looking having played for a team who are top dogs in their country and more than likely play an attacking brand of football against teams who may sit in, similar to our situation in Scotland.

press conference, PK, Pressekonferenz of Canadian national football team Alistair Johnston during the Canadian National Soccer Team press conference at the Umm Salal Club in Doha, Qatar on November 25, 2022. IgorxKralj/PIXSELL

Some of the best performers in this current team have come with pedigree. Joe Hart’s career talks for itself, a player who has played at the highest level of the game. We also have Alistair Johnston, a player we bought after he had proved himself a top player during the World Cup. Cameron Carter-Vickers, an American international who had played for Spurs and other English clubs and always impressed.

We signed Maeda and Kyogo, two of the very best players in the J-League and both Japan internationals. Palma, another internationalist this time with Honduras, who had came to Europe and proved himself in Greece. Abada was putting up fantastic stats in the Israeli league as well as having broke into the national team at only 19.

We also have Callum who came through at Celtic then O’Riley, Hatate and Taylor who we picked up as prospects and Scales who’s road to the starting line up was unique and rather fortunate. I then look at a lot of the figures on the periphery of the squad. Nawrocki cost around £4m, Bernabei £4m Lagerbiekle £3m, Holm £2.5m, Oh £2.5m, Yang £2m, Tilio £1.5m, Iwata £1m, Kobayashi £1m. That’s over £20m spent for very little return.

Maik Nawrocki  during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Aberdeen and Celtic at Pittodrie on 13 August 2023. Photo Stephen Dobson PSI

Now I would say the likes of Nawrocki, Oh, Holm, Yang and Iwata still have time to prove their worth but Bernabei, Lagerbiekle, Tilio and Kobayashi almost certainly look like they won’t make it, like so many players in that category before them.

The way I look at things is why not quality over quantity? Why not push the boat out for a few top players rather than players within that £1-4m mark? It’s worked out well for us before so why not again?

I have absolutely nothing against Nicolas Kühn. I don’t know if he’s going to be the next Jota or if he’s going to end up like Marco Tilio, I’m only going on his stats and how he’s fared at previous clubs but as I said I hope if we do sign him he goes on to light up Celtic Park. But in this window, after everything our manager has been saying about bringing in quality and experience, I’m surprised this is the road we are going down. A road that has had more failures than success over the past say 7-8 years. Is it not worthwhile going down the road that has proved more successful?

Hopefully by the end of the window most fans will be in agreement that our manager has been given the tools needed to maintain our stranglehold on the league title, and hopefully win another Scottish Cup. The business done in this transfer window will go a long way to deciding the outcome of this season. Let’s hope it’s a fruitful one.

Conall McGinty



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!


  1. Brian McAllister on

    Jesus wept. I gave up halfway through that rambling magnum opus. Try being more succinct with your writing mate. I did read enough however to see you had completely contradicted yourself from your previous miserable article. I think you should give others a chance more often. You over analyse so much that you end up saying nothing really.

    • I think you re talking shite.
      The writer of the piece wants quality over quantity and he has doubts that Kuhn is the answer.
      To be fair to the writer Kuhns stats are poor,
      Struggling to work out how you couldn’t understand what he was saying.

  2. Took a couple of reads to, I think, understand your point, but I have to say I do favour quality over quantity.
    However, if we do sign yet another winger, I hope he can actually cross a ball. I don’t understand why we can go through a battalion of wingers who just can not cross 4 decent balls in a game. Kyogo’s lapse? Oh’s dearth of goals? Simple, the service to them is atrocious. Maybe if the team stopped playing backwards and sideways, we would see more balls in the box and less reason for the strikers to cover every blade of grass to get involved!!