When Celtic’s pre-season matches got underway in Austria Olivier Ntcham was a long way from Neil Lennon’s Champions League plans.
A dramatic drop off in form last season had put the midfielder well down the pecking order with comments to a French newspaper appearing to pave the way for his departure.
David Turnbull was being eyed up as a replacement as Lennon started to turnover the squad that he had inherited in the spring from Brendan Rodgers.
Interest and offers have poured in for various Celtic players during the transfer window but Ntcham barely rating a mention but more importantly the player that returned to Lennoxtown after the u-21 European Championships seems unrecognisable from last season’s Ntcham.
Last week away to Cluj he was thrown on to add steel to the Celtic midfield, at Motherwell on Saturday he linked midfield with attack as the hoops turned in a dazzling performance to cut open their visitors who hadn’t lost a goal in their previous five matches.
Ntcham’s departure seems inevitable but the way the season has started it looks more likely to be next summer on the back of having a big impact in the ‘Scottish backwater’.
“Absolutely. I want him here, I don’t want him to go,” Lennon told The Sun. “Obviously for a while, he was thinking maybe his future lay elsewhere, but we’ve tried to reiterate to him that we want him here and we want his future to be here. His all-round game is good.
“He needs maybe a little bit of defensive work at times, he could use his body better or do the yards a little bit more, but on the ball he’s just got that little bit of maverick about him. He’s a beautifully balanced footballer, he’s training really well, he seems happy and settled. We just want more of the same because we’ve got a helluva player there.
“He’s got real flair about him and ability. You saw that as the game wore on last Saturday. At times he’s too good a player to leave out and he just needs to be consistent now. He’s set himself a really good benchmark and, to be fair, he made a really good contribution when he came on in Romania, too. He will definitely come into contention.”
In November Ntcham signed a new contract committing him to Celtic until 2022.
— Joe McHugh (@videocelts) August 13, 2019