Champions League finalists Chelsea have joined West Ham as front runners to sign the former Celtic target Ivan Toney from Brentford this summer, according to reports.
Last summer the 25-year old was at Lennoxtown desperate to put pen to paper to join the then Scottish Champions, having resisted approaches from Brentford. However Celtic appeared to have second thoughts, or cold feet – despite having the player at the club’s training base just north of Glasgow and allowed the Peterborough striker to return to England – and subsequently complete a move to the West London side for around £6m plus add ons. Toney may well have made all the difference for Celtic this season as they chased that illusive tenth consecutive title, with prominent online betting offers suggesting he’d have been a key signing in delivering the title for the Hoops.
Celtic instead opted to sign Swiss international striker Albian Ajeti from West Ham for £5m and retained the services of want away striker Odsonne Edouard, who at that time was valued at around £30m. Had Celtic received a bid that matched their valuation the French Under 21 striker would have been allowed to leave and Toney would have been signed. Ajeti has had a disappointing first season at Celtic and may well be struggling to convince the new manager, almost certainly Eddie Howe, that he merits a place in the rebuilding plans.
Instead of joining Celtic, Toney went to Brentford. While Odsonne Edouard had an underwhelming season, the 25-year-old former Peterborough striker has been in superb form this season in the English Championship, scoring 30 goals in 44 games and showing that he could do a job in the Premier League.
While Toney’s value has increased to around £35m, Celtic may well have to reduce their transfer fee expectations for Odsonne Edouard to around £20m with many English Premier League sides now rate Toney ahead of the Celtic striker. Brendan Rodgers, the former Celtic manager now at Leicester City, remains the most likely to make a summer move for Edouard, although there is interest in the former Paris Saint Germaine striker from Italy and Germany.
Brentford could be set to make a tidy £30m profit on beating Celtic to the signing of Ivan Toney and the sting in the tail could be that they are now set to use some of this windfall to outbid Celtic for the signing of promising Hibs striker Kevin Nesbit.
Brentford’s reputation for bringing in younger players and developing them before selling them on for big profit to Premier League sides will not have gone unnoticed by Nisbet and his advisors as they consider their options ahead of a likely Easter Road exit this summer.
Before their huge success in beating Celtic to the signing of Ivan Toney, Brentford signed Ollie Watkins from Exeter City in 2017 for £2m before selling him on to Aston Villa for an incredible £28m last summer. So for an outlay of around £8m on two strikers Brentford look like bringing in £53m – turning a profit of £45m.
Brentford just seem better at implementing a similar strategy that Celtic have tried to pursue but without a director of football in place. Instead Celtic’s outgoing CEO Peter Lawwell, an accountant to trade, conducted these transfer negotiations on behalf of the club.
As far as Nesbit is concerned, Ron Gordon, the Hibs owner, signalled that some of his top young players could be sold this summer. “I think that maybe one, maybe two could have the opportunity to move this summer,” he admitted. “I don’t think we should undervalue our players, I won’t consider us just as a selling club.”