Union Berlin’s Unexpected Success in Signing Josip Juranovic from Celtic

The Josip Juranovic transfer to Union Berlin surprised many within the Celtic support. Not so much the move itself given Union’s lofty position in the Bundesliga and the strides the club has made off the field, but certainly around the transfer fee Celtic were reported to have received, as the rumoured £7.5m rising to £10m should certain targets be reached by both player and club seemed somewhat paltry compensation.

Granted Celtic only paid £2.5m to sign the Croatian international right back from Legia Warsaw just 18 months previously, but in that time Juranovic had become a Champions League footballer, a World Cup semi-finalist and had nailed himself down as the first-choice Croatian international right-back. He had also evidenced an ability to process, absorb and then perform in a challenging inverted role under Ange Postecoglou. All additions to a footballing CV that perhaps should have resulted in a far higher bounty on his head.

Wolfsburg’s German midfielder Yannick Gerhardt (L) and Union Berlin’s Croatian defender Josip Juranovic (C) vie for the ball during the German Cup (DFB Pokal) football match between FC Union Berlin and VfL Wolfsburg in Berlin on January 31, 2023. (Photo by JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images)

Indeed, when early murmurings of transfer fees were mooted, it appeared the club themselves had let it be known £15m was the starting point for negotiations, to settle then for an initial agreement of half that number certainly seemed strange.

Of course, there were rumours of agreed buy-out clauses being signed off by previous Chief Executives, that appeared to lack credibility, and the manager’s stance on ‘agile and aggressive’ player trading perhaps indicated Celtic would be willing to do business for Juranovic to ensure funding was in place for the January and summer targets the manager had in mind.

Josip Juranovic of Union Berlin in action during the Bundesliga match between SV Werder Bremen and 1. FC Union Berlin at Wohninvest Weserstadion on January 25, 2023 in Bremen, Germany. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Add to that, as much as the transfer window once again saw astronomical amounts being spent on transfer fees, the European market outside of the EPL didn’t entertain such abandon. As such, despite mooted interest in Josip from the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United, such apparent interest didn’t materialise. Therefore, with a player wishing to leave and Ange Postecoglou a manager who doesn’t wish to entertain players whose heart is not invested in the job at hand, perhaps Celtic’s hand was somewhat forced when it came to accepting what appeared on the face of it a lowly bid from Union Berlin.

Now Union Berlin managing director Oliver Ruhnert as reported by Record Sport has admits he didn’t believe Josip Juranovic would sign for the club when they made their move in January, but feels both the timing and his club’s progression allowed them to be successful in securing the likes of Juranovic and Aissa Laidouni, who was previously linked with Celtic.

“We came at the right moment with players like Juranovic and Ladouni. A few years ago, players would probably have said ‘no’. But you see that work has been done successfully here in recent years. That makes it easier for them.

AL RAYYAN, QATAR – DECEMBER 09: Josip Juranovic of Croatia reacts during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 quarter final match between Croatia and Brazil at Education City Stadium on December 09, 2022 in Al Rayyan, Qatar. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

“At first, we had the expectation that (the Juranovic deal) would probably not work out. We stuck with it, and were rewarded in the end. We had (Laidouni) on our radar for a long time. It was never realistic (before) but, like with Juranovic, we came at the right moment.

“Both are very positive guys in the dressing room. That is extremely gratifying. That’s exactly what we wanted.”

After a bright start at Union including an assist for a winning goal on debut, Juranovic has dropped out the Union team for the last couple of games, as captain Christopher Trimmel has returned from injury, but there is no doubt Juranovic will be a success at Union Berlin, and almost as little doubt that Union Berlin will look back on their transfer coup as something of a steal.

Josip Juranovic of Celtic shouts to Celtic support during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Rangers FC and Celtic FC at on January 2, 2023 Photo by Richard Callis/SPP

In the meantime, Josip’s replacement for the right-back position, Alistair Johnston has looked impressive in the short-time we’ve had to assess him, and in his own way appears to have similar strength of character as we got with Josip Juranovic.

So, with money banked and an able alternative secured there is little to look back on with any real regrets, other than perhaps that nagging doubt we could have secured a higher transfer fee for a wonderful talent.

Niall J

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As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.

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