Two goals and an all-round impressive performance against the 2nd biggest team in the league yesterday underlined the value of Gary Hooper to Celtic. The English striker – signed in 2010 from Scunthorpe United (amusingly called Firewall FC by the Guardian) – has been in scintillating form this season with 20 goals in 30 games.
After being the subject of a £5m bid from Norwich, and having only 18 months to go on his contract, the question is being asked: should Celtic sell Gary Hooper?
Since arriving at Celtic, Hooper has scored 71 goals in 116 games. That’s a strike-rate of 61.2%. This season his strike-rate has upped to 66.7%. The striker would have been in the England squad for their Zlatan-inspired defeat to Sweden in August had he been fit.
All of which makes £5m a laughable offer, especially when you consider Loic Remy – with 1 goal in 16 games for Marseille – has just joined QPR for £8m. Although, when you take Harry’s % off that it was probably 50p he was actually valued at.
No, Hooper is worth much more than £5m. The problem for Celtic is his contract situation. Should we try and keep Hooper for a shot at Juventus? We will win the league with or without him regardless, but I believe he is critical to any hopes we have against Turin’s finest crooks.
In the last 18 months Hooper’s link-up play and ability to forage as a loan striker in Europe has come on leaps and bounds. He’s scored 4 goals in 9 European games this season, and when you consider the calibre of opposition we have played, that’s pretty decent. However, it has been his ability to harry and harass, as well as finish even the merest of sniffs, which makes him a must stay for Juve.
The ideal situation for Celtic is that Hooper signs a new deal. We bump up his pay and he stays. We put a clause in there of say, £10m+, which means that we will get a very decent return on our investment and player who knows that if he continues to shine and who knows, plays a part in our journey closer to Wembley, then bigger clubs with more means and ambition than Norwich will come a-calling.
This is similar to the situation we faced with Petrov when he moved to Villa in 2006. Stan was agitating for a move. He wanted to go down south, but by signing his new deal earlier in 2006 it ensured we got decent money for him (c. £7m if memory serves). I expect Lawwell will be having conversations with Hooper’s representatives dangling such a carrot. There may not be a formal release clause – that’s so very Spanish – but I expect there will be a gentleman’s agreement made with regards to what we do with him in the summer.
So, should Celtic sell Gary Hooper?
Eventually that is inevitable. But not in January and certainly not for £5m. We would get that in the summer anyway. I expect, new deal or not, we have Hooper for another six months. The question is whether we get what he is worth or a depressed price due to his contract running out. Sign a new deal, Gary. Play your heart out, dump Juventus out of the ECL and get into that England squad. If you leave in the summer for £10m+ then I don’t think there is a single Celtic fan who would grudge you the move under these circumstances.