Beyond The 2023 January Transfer Window – The Next Big Steps For Celtic?

January Transfer Window Signing Alistair Johnston

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Its been an interesting start to the January transfer window.

We’ve brought 3 players in already in Alistair Johnston, Yuki Kobayashi & Tomoki Iwata, and continue to be linked with further incomings and outgoings.

Those 3 signings can be added to the 20 or so that we’ve already seen arrive since last summer.

I’ve been exploring if there’s any commonality amongst the profile of player we’ve been identifying, and what that might mean for any future business we do.

Lets break down the signings we’ve made under Ange Postecoglou by age profile of when they were signed.

Potential Future Prospect (18-20)
  • Liel Abada (19)
  • Johnny Kenny (18)
  • Liam Shaw (20)
  • Osaze Urhoghide (20)
Ready for First Team Minutes (20-22)
  • Matt O’Riley (21)
  • Alexandro Bernabei (21)
  • Yuki Kobayashi (22)
First Team Ready (23-25)
  • Reo Hatate (24)
  • Yosuke Ideguchi (25)
  • Liam Scales (23)
  • Cameron Carter-Vickers (24)
  • Daizen Maeda (24)
  • Jota (23)
  • Alistair Johnston (24)
  • Sead Haksabanovic (23)
  • Moritz Jenz (23)
  • Tomoki Iwata (25)
Established Pro (26 – 28)
  • Kyogo Furuhashi (26)
  • Carl Starfelt (26)
  • Josip Juranovic (26)
  • Georgios Giakoumakis (26)
  • Oliver Abildgaard (26)
Old Head (29+)
  • Joe Hart (34)
  • James McCarthy (30)
  • Aaron Mooy (31)
  • Benji Siegrist (30)

What Does it all Mean?

I think this gives a clear indication of where we’re looking to focus our resources.

As can be seen the vast majority of our signings have been 25 and under. We have mainly been signing players who are either close to Champions League level – or more commonly – have the potential to get there.

Of course some signings haven’t worked out (Ideguchi, McCarthy, Abildgaard) and some have kicked on possibly quicker than anticipated (Abada, O’Riley, Hatate).


Finished Articles

Carl Starfelt & Kyogo Furuhashi
Carl Starfelt & Kyogo Furuhashi

The established pros we’ve signed have each been at most 26 years old.

I think Ange saw both Carl Starfelt and Kyogo Furuhashi as being vital to having a chance of competing for last seasons title and both have proven to be very good signings.

Whilst operating at different ends of the pitch, both played a crucial role in reclaiming last season’s Scottish Premiership.


The Others

Giorgos Giakoumakis & Josip Juranovic
Giorgos Giakoumakis & Josip Juranovic

In my opinion, aside from Kyogo and Starfelt, the majority of the others were likely not our first choice signings for their positions.

My reading of the others in this bracket are that we liked the players and still rate them. However, purely from a value point of view, we’d now prefer to bring in someone a few years younger who’s future outgoing transfer will bring in a bigger fee.

We can obviously still profit from players coming in at 26. However, the amount we’ll make will likely decrease every year they stay with us.  As such, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few of these to be the next to leave the club.

Josip Juranovic as good as he’s been was always likely to be heading out in the next window or two. Similarly Georgios Giakoumakis is reaching the age where we can still make a decent profit, while bringing in someone with a higher future value.

And it’s not only about transfer fees. Younger players don’t normally command as big a contract. Once they hit their mid to late 20s, they will be looking for the very big contract. I don’t think Celtic will stand in their way.


Setting a Good Example

Celtic Goalkeeper Joe Hart
Celtic Goalkeeper Joe Hart

Despite the above, Ange has shown that on occasion he’s also keen to have some experienced professionals around the club.

I think Joe Hart and James McCarthy’s influence (alongside James Forrest, Greg Taylor and of course Callum McGregor) around the young players was very positive last season.

Aaron Mooy has added to that this season.

I don’t think we’ll be making a habit of signing over 30s but Ange clearly sees having some experience around as being important amongst a young squad.


Future Stars

Looking at the younger players we’ve signed, I think we are certainly keen to bring high potential younger players to the club. Some will make it and some wont. That’s the model.

So far, our younger signings have mainly been positive.

In fact, a couple have already made great leaps and established themselves as trusted first team players.


Unpolished Diamonds

Reo Hatate
Reo Hatate

The vast majority of our signings fit the profile of 22-24 year olds who are looking for a club to play at that will get them noticed by the ‘Top 5’ league clubs.

Most are on the fringes of their national teams.

Most have a couple of seasons playing experience in a similar sized league to the Scottish Premiership.

The benefit of signing players of this profile is that, while not without risk, we should be pretty confident that they can perform to a level where they will be successful at least in Scotland.

If successful, the hope is that they will then develop into players that can play at the very highest level.


What This Means For Celtic’s Recruitment

I expect our recruitment team are working hard to identify targets with the following profiles.

Our main targets will be ages 22-24 with at least a seasons football under their belts. These players will be expected to be ready to step right into our first 11.

I also think we’ll be scouring the globe for high potential under 21 players. These players will be expected to be given exposure to the first team but won’t necessarily be relied upon immediately.

The 26 year old players we’ve brought in so far will be a rare occurrence going forward. I expect those players were brought in purely as a result of the state of the squad at that time, and the urgency we had in bringing players in who could help us secure the title.

Opportunities may arise for a high quality old head to come in, but again I doubt we’ll see that too often. Aaron Mooy already living in Glasgow was probably an exceptional circumstance that led to his arrival. It was an easy deal to bring in a quality player.

As far as outgoings go, I expect almost everyone is available for the right price. As mentioned in this previous blog, this isn’t a problem as long as we have suitable players lined up to step in.


Who Will We Sign?

Looking at the current squad, I wouldn’t be surprised if we were to looking for players in all positions.

Over the next window or two I’d expect to see incomings along the lines of:

  • A Goalkeeper (to be signed in the next 1-3 seasons)
  • A Centre Back (decision to be made in the summer, possibly alternative sought)
  • An Attacking midfielder (to be signed this window or the summer)
  • A Winger (to be signed this window or the summer)
  • A Striker (to be signed this window or the summer)

Who Will We Sell?

Moving players on is all part of the strategy and Ange has prepared us for this with recent comments.

I’d expect exits in the following areas:

  • Centre back  (leaving in the next couple of windows)
  • Full Back (leaving in this window/summer)
  • Attacking midfielder (leaving in summer)
  • Winger (leaving in summer)
  • Striker (leaving this window/summer)


Smoking Fax Machine

Our recruitment team and Michael Nicholson will continue to be busy. As they have been since Ange arrived around 18 months ago.

We’ll stay agile and with the focus on reducing the age profile of the squad even further than it already is.

We’ll be looking to profit from most  (if not all!) transfers while re-investing the proceeds on even better prospects from around the globe.

There’s talk that Celtic baulked at the £5-7 million fee for Enzo Fernandez a few years ago when the young midfielder was breaking through at River Plate in Argentina.

He subsequently joined Benfica and now has a World Cup Winner’s medal in his trophy cabinet, having also been named Young Player of the Tournament in Qatar.

I think moving forward we may now see investment at that level being signed off by Nicholson and Co. as we push the boat out that bit further for exciting prospects around the globe.

If the right opportunity is there and the player is convinced that Celtic can give them a genuine route to the top then we’ll start to see these kind deals become a regular occurrence.

Let’s just hope the club are stocked up with paper and the fax machine has been serviced. Its going to be busy!

In the latest episode of The Celtic Exchange Weekly we look at the big calls Ange made on Derby Day and at the calamity of VAR in Scottish Football!
Listen at the player below, on all major podcast players or here at The Celtic Exchange.
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