Whilst some complain about the EPL price of place impact on the SPL – with Hooper £8m and Zaha £15m being a great example – we should consider that Celtic has exploited this same phenomena extremely well in the last three years.
If you look at our dealings since the shambles of the Mowbray reign and the January transfer window in particular that year, it is clear that we have made a conscious move to try and find more lucrative markets. The club now has an overt policy of seeking to find burgeoning talent with low cost but high potential – both value and ability.
Since 2010/11 21% of our players in – including loans – have come from Europe’s top 5 leagues (EPL, La Liga, Lique 1, Bundesliga and Serie A). Contrast that with with Mowbray’s 42% in his year in charge.
In 2010/11, 3 players came from Europe’s premier leagues; Forster initially on loan for a couple of seasons before we forked out in 2012 for his services. However, the real successes from the periods across the two transfer windows in Lennon’s first season came from the English lower leagues. Hooper, Ledley and Commons are absolutely key members of the squad today.
Also successful in this period were the signings of Izaguirre, Kayal, Stokes, Mulgrew and Majstorovic. Du Ri did a good job for us as well.
In many ways you could argue that this was one of the most successful years of transfer dealings in Celtic’s recent history. We spent £14m and the value of the players brought in is around £40m. In addition, of the 14 players signed in 2010/11 I would regard 10 of the 14 players signed as being at least acceptable, and in some cases outstanding acquisitions.
Only Murphy, Ljungberg, Kapo and Juarez could be regarded as failures and I am sure that most Celtic fans would agree that there is a great deal of regret over Juarez as he could/should have been a star. Interestingly, the other three players all consolidate the folly of buying players based on years old EPL perceptions. We’ve not been playing in that sandpit since.
Without a doubt this transfer period proved pivotal in consolidating Celtic’s belief in the current transfer strategy.
People talk a lot about trusting Park and Lennon et al when it comes to bringing in new players and 2010/11 consolidated that view.
The following season saw us have more modest rake around the transfer market. Bear in mind 10 out 14 players in the previous season were key first team members, the need to do heaps of business had dissipated and rather it was about adding to the squad instead of trying build one from scratch. Therefore, it was understandable Celtic was less active in this window.
Five players arrived in the summer window with mixed success. Interestingly, two English lower league signings have again proven successful with Adam Matthews and Kelvin Wilson coming in on frees (albeit we had to pay development fees for Matthews as was under-23). El-Kaddori’s loan from Dynamo Kiev was less successful albeit he did score at Ibrox with the kind of grass-cutter and McGregor faux-pas combo that seemed to befit the Moroccan’s time with the club. The other summer signing was the much maligned Mo Bangura who, whilst still on our books, has no real future at the club it would seem.
The star signing of 2011/12 is undoubtedly the man mountain that is Victor Wanyama. Whilst Kelvin Wilson took 18 months to settle in and convince the support, it was immediately obvious that the Kenyan was a superstar in the making. As Hector Bandido likes to remind us, all major clubs in Europe have registered an interest with Celtic for the big man. My £10m estimate is perhaps conservative with this in mind.
The January window saw four players arrive. Blackman and Rabui came in on frees. Broznek came in from Trabsponzor on a loan deal costing the club almost £300k. The Pole’s highlight was being replaced by Tony Watt at Motherwell the day the youngster announced his arrival in the first team squad with 2 quickfire goals on his debut.
The final player arriving in 2011/12 was Mikael Lustig and the Swede has really begun to win over the fans and talks of a big money move to Russia underlines why Lennon was right to persist with the Musketeer doppelgänger.
None of the 9 signings came from Europe’s big leagues.
So, 2011/12 saw 9 players in and 5 go on to be a success. We spent just shy of £4m and have players valued in the region of £21m. This makes the first two seasons under Lennon’s tenure spectacularly successful in respect to transfer deals. £18m was spent in outgoings and the value of the incoming players c. £61m. And this doesn’t even begin to account for movements of players transferred out who were signed prior to Lennon’s arrival.
Combined 23 players came in and 15 played key roles between coming in to the club and the present day. This is a success rate of 2/3. When you consider we are signing players from unproven leagues, based on a potential and looking to bleed them in the kickfest of the SPL, this is a fantastic hit rate.
But, and there is a but, the January signings have so far proven much less value than the work done in the summer. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Over the first two seasons 7 players came into the club in Januarys. Only 2 could be regarded as successes: Commons and Lustig. So, of the 8 players who have failed to make a mark at Celtic since Lennon came in, 5 came in January. This makes our summer success rate an even more impressive 12/16 or 75%.
All of which supports the theory that January signings are not always the most likely to be a hit.
As is obvious when you consider the journey from 2010 to 2012 in respect to the signings discussed previously establishing themselves in the team, 2012-13 has seen more modest transfer dealings again.
Only 4 players arrived in the summer and only Ambrose was a straightforward purchase. We got Lassad on a free and he looks as if he is starting to settle, whilst the aforementioned Ambrose had settled before he got on the plane to Glasgow. The performances against Barcelona in particular were colossal.
Miku has come in on loan with an option to buy. I doubt this will be exercised and Kamenar has come and gone with the fanfare of the pensioners’ bingo night.
So, three players come from Spain and France and only one is mildly successful and shows potential to kick on (NB: I know Lassad in Spain’s Segundo but DLC were promoted and he refused an offer to stay). Meanwhile, another signing from Europe’s minor leagues, and again Israel, has been sterling.
Did we dabble in Spain and France with the ECL in mind? Probably. Did we bring Kamenar in with a view to seeing if he was fit to replace Forster? Probably. Have we done it prudently and without putting any pressure on the club? Absolutely.
It is interesting to see us back in the ‘European other’ market with Gershon and plundering a new market for the highly-rated Rogic. It can be easy for new managers and scouts to blow out with all the good signings early on and then struggle to replicate these successes as they have to delve deeper time and again. However, when you look at our club, since 2010 we’ve spent £19m and have players valued at about £67m. All of these players are still at the club as well.
One obvious conclusions to take from this is that our business is best done in the summer. In and out.
We have had excellent success in this period and factors such as taking our time, scouting well, getting a pre-season with the new players, coming in at a less-pressured part of the season (not every game is must-win) and when the conditions overhead and underfoot are more favourable for newcomers.
And signing players from Europe’s big five leagues ain’t for us.
Aside from Forster we’ve had very little value out of players from Europe’s big five leagues. Lassad and Du Ri have been OK and the triumvirate of ex-EPL players signed in 2010 proves that we’re better catching players on the way up than standing arms wide open to get them on the way down.
If players in these leagues are doing well that will generally be known. Yes, you might get a Michu or a Forster but that truly is needle-in-a-haystack stuff. Football is such a global game now and so long as we continue to cast our net far and wide we will get success. We’ve probably exhausted the English lower leagues as much as we can for the time being, albeit it has been our most fruitful pickings.
If we can continue with the current strategy and combine it with really getting the best out of our youth set-up then the future should remain bright.
(source of transfer fees: http://www.transfermarkt.co.uk/)