Mark Lawwell’s Celtic Signings Assessed

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With Celtic recently announcing that Head of Recruitment Mark Lawwell has resigned from his role, the Celtic Exchange analyses here the players he signed in just under two years at the club.

Lawwell joined on May 2nd, 2022, meaning he has served a total of four transfer windows and signed 21 players during that time.

Let’s look at the good, bad, and in-between here.

Benjamin Siegrist

Celtic’s first signing of the Lawwell era was Benjamin Siegrist.

Having impressed for Dundee United against Celtic in the 2021/22 season, Siegrist looked to be a shrewd signing at 30 years old on a free transfer.

He had plenty of experience as a goalkeeper.

However, since joining, he has failed to challenge Joe Hart.

Even this season, Siegrist dropped to third choice behind Scott Bain and was close to joining Austrian Bundesliga side Sturm Graz on loan in January.

However, he has since been linked with a move to Aberdeen in the summer.

Alexandro Bernabei
Alexandro Bernabei In Action Against Hearts
Alexandro Bernabei In Action Against Hearts

A signing who, at the time, seemed to promise so much but simply hasn’t delivered.

First and foremost, he hasn’t displaced Greg Taylor at left back.

During a recent spell in the side due to a Taylor injury, Bernabei failed to mark David Watson properly for Kilmarnock’s equaliser at Celtic Park on February 17th, ultimately leading to his departure.

Bernabei recently joined Internacional on loan for the remainder of the Brazilian league season, with the Argentine likely to push for a move away from Glasgow after his loan deal expires.

Moritz Jenz

Jenz joined Celtic on a season-long loan from Lorient.

With an injury to Carl Starfelt early in the season, he was afforded consistent game time from August until November.

During this period, Celtic only lost one domestic game.

However, when Starfelt returned, Celtic decided to terminate Jenz’s loan spell in January 2023, with Yuki Kobayashi joining on a permanent transfer.

Celtic could have greatly benefited from Jenz this season, especially with injuries consistently plaguing the starting 11 at the heart of defence.

Aaron Mooy
Aaron Mooy Is Now A Key Component in Celtic's Midfield
Aaron Mooy Showed His talent In a short Time At The Club

Questions will rightly be raised about how much of a role Lawwell had in Mooy’s signing compared to Postecoglou, who had previously worked with him in the Australian national team.

However, considering Lawwell had approved Mooy’s signings for Melbourne and Manchester City, he himself would have been aware of the playmaker’s capabilities and what he could bring to Celtic.

Mooy will be remembered as a Hoops cult hero.

When he played, he was simply unstoppable, and his retirement in the summer marked a definitive success.

Sead Haksabanovic

Haksabanovic made decent contributions last season, albeit mostly off the bench. He failed to displace Daizen Maeda and Jota from the starting 11 but served as a good squad rotation option off the bench.

With Jota departing in the summer, he expected greater opportunities in the squad, but that did not materialise.

After questioning the club’s valuation of his worth through social media posts, he joined Stoke City on loan in September for the remainder of the season.

However, he has not made a significant impact in England, failing to play a league minute since February 10th.

With his Celtic contract expiring in the summer of 2027, he may prove to be a difficult player to transfer due to his attitude being a clear issue.

Oliver Abildgaard

A player who most would be forgiven for failing to remember, having joined from Rubin Kazan, like Haksabanovic, he failed to start a game during his time at the club.

With only six league appearances, similar to Jenz, his loan was terminated in January 2023.

Abildgaard joined Hellas Verona for the remainder of the Serie A season, which finished with the team in 17th place.

Abildgaard started five league games, but interestingly, he did not play a minute in Verona’s Serie A relegation playoff win over Spezia.

He is currently at Serie B side Como, which speaks volumes about the loan signing and the poor recruitment from Lawwell and the recruitment department.

Yuki Kobayashi
Yuki Kobayashi Has Barely Featured In The Hoops
Yuki Kobayashi Has Barely Featured In The Hoops

Undeniably one of Lawwell’s most questionable signings, but it must be noted that Postecoglou would have played a large role in Kobayashi’s signing, having come up against the Japanese centre-back while in charge of Yokohama F. Marinos.

Kobayashi played a total of five league games towards the end of last season.

However, after a poor performance against Rangers at Ibrox in May, in which he was at fault for two of Rangers’ three goals, he has never seemed to recover with Iwata instead favoured in the Scottish Cup final in June.

Kobayashi was recently linked with a move back to Japan to Yokohama F. Marinos, who are currently managed by former Celtic first-team coach Harry Kewell.

Alistair Johnston
Alistair Johnston Quickly Became A Fans;' Favourite
Alistair Johnston Quickly Became A Fans’ Favourite

A signing who has done exactly what he was brought into the side to do: replace Josip Juranovic with the Croatian leaving weeks after Johnston’s arrival.

Johnston has been a huge success and is a consistent starter in the back four.

With many of the Celtic starting 11 being questioned at times this season, it speaks volumes that Johnston is not.

Of all the players signed since Lawwell joined, Johnston will undoubtedly go down as his biggest success.

Tomoki Iwata

It’s evident that Iwata joining Celtic had more to do with his previous time at Yokohama with Postecoglou than Lawwell’s ability to recruit players.

Iwata has seen his best run of games in recent weeks but has not nailed down a consistent starting spot in just over a year at the club.

However, he was trusted with starting the Scottish Cup final against Inverness in June at centre back by Postecoglou, which says a lot about the belief the Australian had in him.

With Callum McGregor injured until at least the international break, the next month will prove the most important of Iwata’s Celtic career.

If he can continue to impress, he will likely become a guaranteed starter week in week out.

Oh Hyeon-Gyu

Signed to replace Giorgos Giakoumakis, Oh has failed to replicate Giakoumakis’ incredible impact at Celtic.

Simply put, Adam Idah is what Oh was signed to be.

The South Korean international is only 23 years old, just like Idah, meaning that age can’t be used as an excuse for Oh’s lack of impact in displacing Kyogo in just over a year at the club.

Oh may yet go on to be a first-team starter, but in a year, the signs have not been promising.

He is by no means a bad striker, but he is considered a downgrade on Giakoumakis.

Odin Thiago Holm
Norwegian Youngster Odin Thiago Holm Has Struggled For Game Time
Norwegian Youngster Odin Thiago Holm Has Struggled For Game Time

At 21 years old, this season won’t define Holm’s Celtic legacy, but he will need to improve over the next couple of years if he is to become a part of the first-team picture.

A loan in the summer would suit him perfectly, as he has shown glimpses of brilliance so far.

However, with a transfer fee of around £2.6 million paid, it will be interesting to see where Celtic look to loan Holm next season, as the fee paid was by no means small for a player of his age.

Marco Tilio

Surprisingly, Celtic waited until Postecoglou departed the club to foray into the Australian transfer market. Postecoglou’s prints, like Lawwell’s, were all over this signing, with Tilio joining from Melbourne City, one of the City Football Group’s owned clubs which he was previously in charge of recruitment.

Tilio appeared to be a player who had already been looked at by Postecoglou and Lawwell.

With Melbourne City reaching the A-League Men grand final in June 2023, he didn’t officially join Celtic until the end of the month but immediately picked up an injury, leading to just 27 minutes of football in the first half of the season for the Hoops.

The Australian winger rejoined Melbourne City on loan in January until the end of the season, and will look to get back to his best before linking up with Celtic in the summer for pre-season.

Yang Hyun-jun
Yang Has Come To The Fore In recent Weeks
Yang Has Come To The Fore In recent Weeks

Like Iwata in recent weeks, Yang has really begun to work his way into the starting 11.

His performances against Motherwell and Dundee recently, showed exactly why Celtic signed him, and at just around £2 million paid, he looks to be a bargain.

If he can continue his recent hot streak, he will become a certainty in the starting 11.

Consistency and a lack of goals are two aspects he needs to improve, but apart from that, every other aspect of his wing play is particularly excellent.

Kwon Hyeok-kyu

After a disastrous performance in James Forrest’s testimonial against Atletico Bilbao in August at Celtic Park, Kwon has not played in a competitive league match for Celtic despite joining in the summer.

Many eyebrows were raised when he joined from the second division in South Korea.

Kwon joined St. Mirren in January and has since impressed, with manager Stephen Robinson looking to extend his loan spell until the end of next season.

Whether Kwon has a future at Celtic remains to be seen.

Maik Nawrocki

Despite being signed to replace Carl Starfelt and shelling out £4.3 million, Nawrocki has been consistently plagued with injuries and when fit has been unable to displace Liam Scales.

Whether Nawrocki will prove to be a successful signing is still up for debate, but one thing is clear: he needs to avoid injuries because if he continues the way he has so far, it will be even more difficult to work his way into the starting 11 next season.

Nawrocki hasn’t looked like a disaster when he has played, but he will certainly look back on his first season at Celtic as a huge disappointment.

Gustaf Lagerbielke

With Nawrocki, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Stephen Welsh all suffering injuries in August, Lagerbielke was afforded consistent game time until Nat Phillips’ arrival.

Lagerbielke has since played only two games since September, with one being in the Champions League at Celtic Park against Feyenoord, coming off the bench to score a late winner, securing Celtic’s first Champions League home win in over a decade.

The Swedish defender was rumoured to be close to joining Serie A side Lecce in January on loan for the remainder of the season.

However, another injury setback to Carter-Vickers meant that Lagerbielke remained at Celtic for the time being.

Celtic shelled out a substantial fee of around £3 million for Lagerbielke, but with a lack of game time, it is clear that Brendan Rodgers is not a fan of him.

Luis Palma
Luis Palma Has Impressed In Flashes For Celtic
Luis Palma Has Impressed In Flashes For Celtic

A signing who has divided fans due to his lack of consistency and predictable wing play.

Signed for around £3.5 million, Palma has six goals and nine assists in 23 league appearances, a respectable tally for a winger.

However, statistics aren’t everything.

It’s clear that Palma is a downgrade on Jota. He will need to improve his ability to hug the touchline, as he is over reliant on cutting inside onto his stronger right foot.

Considering he is only a year younger than Jota, Palma is further behind in his development than the Portuguese winger was at this stage of last season.

Nat Phillips

Phillips joined in the prime of his career from Liverpool on loan until January, with hopes high that he could go on to become a first-team regular.

The English defender had played a respectable number of games for the Reds during his time at the club.

However, a poor performance against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in a 2-1 defeat in December, in which he scored an own goal, ultimately ended his Celtic career a month early, with the Hoops deciding against extending his loan deal.

Paulo Bernardo

Bernardo has had an interesting loan spell since arriving from Benfica in the summer, with his standout moment being his goal against Rangers at Celtic Park in December.

In the four league games before the winter break, Bernardo appeared to finally hit his form, contributing two goals and two assists.

If the Portuguese midfielder can rediscover that form, Celtic will sign him permanently in the summer.

With the Hoops struggling to replace Mooy’s output this season, Bernardo has shown glimpses of being an all-round midfielder.

Nicolas Kuhn

Kuhn hasn’t set the world alight since joining in January, consistently failing to cement a place in the starting 11 despite joining for £3 million.

It is still too early to say if he will be a success. With a goal against Aberdeen in his second appearance, the German winger has disappointed in starts against Hibernian and Motherwell in recent weeks.

Adam Idah
Adam Idah Has Played His Part Since Signing On Loan In January
Adam Idah Has Played His Part Since Signing On Loan In January

Idah has already endeared himself to the Celtic faithful with his last-minute winners and aerial threat.

With Kyogo Furuhashi currently struggling to re-discover his form of last season Idah has stepped up when Celtic needed him most.

Despite signing on deadline day on loan until the summer from Norwich City, without a record of consistently scoring goals during his career, Idah has proven that he brings goals and physicality, something that the Hoops have consistently missed since Giakoumakis’ departure a year ago.


As you can see, it’s a mixed bag to say the least, but as we discussed here perhaps that’s down to the club’s current signing strategy as it is to do with Lawwell and his team.

The most recent summer window in particular has told us that our approach just isn’t as effective as it should be.

There’ll always be a time to sign “project players” – and we may go on to see great things from the likes of Odin Thiago Holm, Marco Tilio and Kwon – but there’s also a need to sign “first team ready ” players, and that’s where the gap has been in recent windows.

Whether that changes this summer and beyond remains to be seen.

Tune in now to the latest episode of The Celtic Exchange Weekly // Rodgers Calls It Out, Recruitment Reshuffle Required & The battle To Save Celtic!

Available wherever you get your podcasts or via the player below.

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