Many many many years ago I remember my mate and I working for an old woman. The old woman asked my mate “You married son?” and he replied ‘Yip, 5 years!’. She then turns to me “And what about you?”. Before I could answer my mate jumped in and jokingly answered “No! He’s not married, he’s living in sin!” given that I had recently moved in with my fiance ( now wife). The older woman heard this, thought to herself for a second, smiled and then said “Ah, taste and try before you buy is it, you’re no daft. We didnae have that in my day!”.
That wee scene has always stuck with me, and the phrase always crops up in my head whenever I hear the name Celtic and the words “Loan Deal” said together. I just seem to let out the annual deep sigh and think to myself “Here we go again, another waste of time!”. With the recent Miku information\misinformation in the papers regards his unhappiness \ lack of pushing on at Celtic, I thought it was maybe about time to give the whole Loan Deal attitude some review.
Before I get into this, let me say this isn’t a scientific exact investigation, its just me looking at our record in loan deals and asking “Is it worthwhile?”. I can very well appreciate that these days every penny really is a prisoner but that in itself may not be sufficient reason to take players on a temporary or assessment basis. Could it be a case its better to promote from within rather than bring in someone from outside? Could it be its better to re-organise formations rather than constantly filling the same places with poor players?
Could the answers lie in changing the questions?
The taste and try attitude suggests that its better to take loan deals and then buy if impressed rather than get landed with a dud? In an ideal world no doubt that is the case but we all know such a thing doesn’t exist. Loan deals usually involve players either needing further development or a fresh start elsewhere. Loan deals are not a place to find players in their peak both physically and mentally. Is a loan deal just the equivalent of half a loaf is better than none where Clubs take on unwanted \ imperfect players that they don’t necessarily want but feel its better than nothing at all?
People argue that loan deals are good value for money as they don’t cost much in wages or crazy transfer fees? Right? Are we sure about that? 65k a week for Robbie Keane anyone, Craig Loadsamoney Bellamy anyone? Wages are still a factor especially with any loans from overpaid English connections, even if subsidized by the lending club,. Agents are also still involved at Loan deals so there must be overall costs involved regardless of no transfer although Celtic did famously pay £1.5 for that Henri Camara loan, a figure that still astounds to this day. Its a fact that there is no such thing as a free lunch. People that argue loans provide value for money should consider asking “Whats the true value for money in bringing in a player from another club to ‘cover’ or play a few games here and there? Shouldn’t we be looking to promote from within or if no such players available then put such monies into remedying any issues in producing our own players?”
The main argument of loan deals has usually been to cover for areas where we have felt exposed. If we wish to consider the players coming in on cover debate, hows about these two
Moroccan international left-back Badr El Kaddouri.
The 30 year old Dynamo Kiev defender was in for only a few months to cover for Izzy but really…was he really top of a list of 4 candidates, given his injury issues and the small fact that he was pish. 6 games in the Hoops and a taxi was called for. Kaddouri slumped away saluting the fans but moaning about the style of football played in Scotland. Still, i suppose he did score against the former rivals from across the water and will always have that claim to fame.
Edson Braafheid..remember him, he made Lee Naylor look like a star!.
This was a man who came on loan from Bayern Munich and we thought we had a class left back. Sadly that was rather optimistic. The only real contribution the 9 Hoops appearance man made was to generate the greatest quiz question EVER in Celtic fan history “How the hell did he get to play in a World Cup Final with Netherlands!”.
The argument for loan deals does have one trump card. Celtic in truth have had their fingers burned with actual full signings Mohamed Bangura, Daryl Murphy, Efrain Juarez, Morten Rasmussen anyone? This realm of signed diddies has had Celtic fans and no doubt management squirming with embarrassment and anguish at paying out good money for utter dross. Why didn’t we take these folk on loan deals? Where they so good we couldn’t strike a loan deal, really? Did we really think they were must-sign players given now we don’t even consider them value for money!
But hey, Lets now think positive, lets look at good Celtic loans deals!
Big Sammi anyone? Its easy now to forget that one of our current big big stars in Big Sammi was initially a loan deal? Oh yes, he really did tick the “assess before buying” box. Somehow its taken us all a few years to appreciate his true worth but thankfully its all paid off and fair play to the big Greek for taking a pay cut to come to us post his loan period from Man City. While the free flowing Sammi worked out well, other similar loan deals werent so rewarding, Diomansy kamara and his soundalike fellow loanee Henri camara both came to Celtic, showed some flair, got some hearts raised and then saw all hope peter out and depart to see their time at Celtic filed under ‘Unglorious’.
The best ever Celtic loan deal is arguably Mr Fraser Forster.
In a rare case former loanee Fraser Forster was taken on loan from another teams reserves and promoted straight into a key role at Celtic, this move coming after new boss Neil Lennon decided Square-Arse Łukasz Załuska was not the answer to the post Artur Boruc problem. After a shaky start, Forster cemented his place with over 90 loan appearances between the sticks, his standing so great that he was designated our Nbr 1 target for signing in the summer of 2012. After quite a long negotiation (and rumours of “Come and get me London Clubs” whispers for the lovelorn keeper too) , Forster signed a 4 years deal for around £2.5m. The keepers signing had Celtic Manager Neil Lennon smiling – ‘We are delighted that Fraser has committed his future to the club and we believe he will be a magnificent addition to the squad. ‘He gives us that continuity so this is something we are really pleased about. He is a top-class keeper.’
The Forster loan deal showed the rewards and dangers of a successful loan deal. The rewards were that We got a player that not only met but exceeded our needs and expectations and the player also won big wages, bonuses, trophies and gained great experience including European games. The dangers arose when the loan became so successful that others took note. With each herald of praise, others noticed the true ( and ever increasing) value of the player, a value that we had actually spotted way back when. By last seasons end, both Newcastle and West Ham ( after Rob Greens departure) sat up and Forster was a name being discussed in the media. Alls well that ends well and Forster duly signed for Celtic but by now with a deal which will probably have quite a few clauses inserted into it given his rapid progression and standing following his successful loan deal.
Although he finally did sign, this raises another question – Couldn’t the club have saved a small fortune, both in the summer and in any future sales, by securing his full time signature a long time ago? After all, they had so much faith in Forster back then that they were willing to promote an EPL 3rd reserve to the Celtic Number 1 jersey. Was this a long term opportunity lost to the short term benefits of a loan deal?
It wasn’t all rosy for recent Celtic keeper loan deals. As Forster arrived, we saw long term “project” Dominic Cervi head out on loan and he is now out the door while still there is Łukasz Załuska who somehow has a new contract. Will Załuska ever be good enough? or should he have been sent out on loan rather than sitting forever in Forsters shadow. As Zaluskas new contract was rather surprising given, we have also brought in a Slovakian goalkeeper on loan from Nantes…the question one has to ask is “Is he any better\worse than Zaluska and if not couldnt we have promoted a keeper from within if its just to back up a obvious back up in Zaluska?’
Will Slovakian internationalist Lubos Kamenar training with Forster and Zaluska tell anyone anything we shouldnt already know? Will the Slovak be hoping to challenge for a place on the bench for a year because we all know that he wont usurp Lurch for the Nbr 1 jersey? Is that worthwhile to anyone? And if so, why is it we cant generate a decent keeper of our own to challenge a back up as back up? David Marshall was our last home grown keeper hope that sure enough faltered, is it beyond our club to create a decent man between the sticks? If so, why is that? and wouldnt it be worth ploughing some of the loan fund into investigating?
Other good load signings are hard to find. Robbie Keane gave a good return in goals per games but was he really what we needed back then, this was a team with Josh Thomson at the back remember? The argument is that we couldn’t afford a transfer for a player like Keane but short term, with various marketing boosts, it would be well worthwhile. The short term feel good factor was apparent when he appeared at Midnight at Celtic Park but again some suggested, it was just like painting the walls while the foundations where collapsing. Lets look at the signing of Keane, on the reported 65k a week remember…a superstar loan , a steal no less said some quarters.
On signing for Celtic, Keane said “The club is brilliant. I am a Celtic fan and did not have to ask much about it. I always wanted to play for Celtic. It’s absolutely fantastic to be here.” The Republic of Ireland captain went on to score eight goals in eight appearances. Sadly he was playing for Tony Mowbray at the time and even he couldnt save the club at that juncture. While Mowbray was an embarrassment to Celtic management, the fans also embarrassed themselves by electing Robbie Keane as Celtics fans POTY in April 2012. A red faced Keane, who had won Player of the Month for March 2012, found it hard accepting the award after a few months playing time, and insisted he didn’t deserve it for such a short stay while offering Aiden McGeady as a worthy recipient. Keane left with Celtic trophy less and left new boss Neil Lennon to begin his reinventing Celtic program. A question worth asking is Could Lenny have done without the Keane drain on his meagre resources at the time? Evil scaremongers even try and suggest that the Keane wages could come back to bite us in an EBT stylie but that’s very doubtful given the Boards strict compliance and Dermots renowned tightness.
Sadly other Celtic loan deals can be filed under hopeless. Many seem like they have just been in a “Press X in Football Manager” style. Pawel Brozek on loan from Trabzonspor anyone? He came to get fit and raring to go for the Euro 2012s..he left early doors fuming at only getting 2 sub appearances. Frankly most Celtic fans would struggle to pick him out a line up of Usual Suspects which says it all for the Verbal Klnt lookalike.
The Brozek signing window does throw up a few interesting questions. While we were getting a loan on Brozek, we were also signing up Nigerian midfielder Ibrahim Rabiu on a free transfer and Swedish defender Mikael Lustig on a free transfer from Rosenborg. Thank God at least one of those deals have came good with Lustig really coming forward this season while Ibrahim Rabiu has been filed under AWOL and no one is holding out much hope of seeing him light up any Celtic game soon. Question many may ask is how come we gave Ibrahim a 3.5 year deal?, Maybe it isnt just Loan deals that come with a gamble?
The other question, given Lustig’s impressive play is should Celtic forget loans and concentrate on free proven/up-and-coming signings? A list of recent free signings does make interesting reading : Charlie Mulgrew, Joe Ledley, Adam Matthews, Kelvin Wilson, Dylan McGeough and most recent of all Lassad from Deportivo. Thats 6 of the current first team squad, the futures bright, the futures freebie? A combination of low transfer fees, Ambrose, Wanyama, Kayal, Commons along with free signings looks to be the core for Celtic moving forward. A considered investment such as Hooper or Ki will be taken here and there but always with an eye on a decent return. Is there a place for loans here? Is there any need when our young lads such as Tony Watt have impressed?
Talk of Watt brings us to our most recent high profile loan signing Miku.
Here was a man heralded as a classy technically gifted player,cited as a man who had tasted victory against Barcelona no less. Then when the actual time comes and we play in the Camp Nou…hold on a sec, there’s no sign of Miku ( bar a press Conference!) …he doesn’t even get played when Sammi gets injured. Didnt this seem a strange one, wasn’t this one of the reasons he was brought on board, his classy European experience?
Then we were told he is still adjusting to the physical side of Scottish football…really? Did Nimble nakamura need ages to adjust, did little Lubo? has anyone seen the size of James Forrest? Hmmm?
Now we are told his wife and child have arrived in Scotland and that should help him settle..now settle…after a Quarter of the season has gone? really? In a harsh reality, We could be out of Europe by Xmas, will we really need a player like Miku to ensure we win the league in run-up to May 2013?
Don’t read this as a rant against Miku. I would love to see him hit dazzling form and be an instant signing come next summer but I doubt thats going to happen. I fear Miku could be filed under “Just a Punt” before the Seasons even out and we will wonder if real consideration was given when we chose to sign him. Would you rather see him or Tony Watt start? At this point in time, Miku or the freed Niall McGinn anyone?
Perhaps Lenny is factoring in a full season for Miku to adjust and then look to kick on next season. That would give us a cheaper year with the player but is this approach realistic. Could Miku fully commit himself knowing its just a loan deal rather being given a full long term contract? If we expect a bedding in period, do we really need to bring in such exotic players on loan given they probably will not be adjusted in time for European games? Was it all just a ‘let hope its all okay’ rather than ‘Its all part of the plan’?
The January window will soon be here and it will be interesting to see if Celtic look to bring any loanees in. Do we need back-up? We have a good squad and January isnt normally the best time for bringing in a first team regular and where would we need cover if a loan was targetted? Not in goal surely, thats well covered. Our Wing back places also have cover. least while we havent sold anyone. Could the African Cup of Nations in South Africa have Neil Lennon looking for a Wanyama\Ambrose back up? The rest of the midfield should be okay numbers wise but could we be looking at yet another striker to help take the onus off Hooper and the progressing Tony Watt – Stokes will become fit again wont he? Lassad will shake off the knocks wont he? Miku will come good…wont he?
Only time will tell..now wheres my copy of Football Manager 2013