Stephen McGowan has highlighted the declining hit rate of Celtic’s transfer strategy.
When Ange Postecoglou arrived in the summer of 2021 there was an urgent need to bring players in after the disasters of the previous season and the complete lack of forward planning.
Driven by the manager, acting without a Director of Football or Head of Recruitment, almost an entire new team was recruited with Joe Hart, Josip Juranovic, Carl Starfelt, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Liel Abada, Kyogo Furuhashi, Giorgos Giakoumas and Jota signed up over the early matches of the season.
James McCarthy was the only failure but Postecoglou also revived Tony Ralston and Greg Taylor who had been sidelined the previous year.
The January 2022 window was sensational, ahead of it even opening Reo Hatate, Daizen Maeda and Yosuke Ideguchi were signed up and in training before the season resumed on January 17. When Riley McGree opted for Middlesbrough attention quickly switched to Matt O’Riley, an inspired move.
In May 2022 Mark Lawwell was announced as the Head of Recruitment and Scouting, apparently he had been doing a similar job at Manchester City but evidence of that is hard to summon.
Ben Siegrist, Alexandro Bernabei, Sead Haksabanovic and Oliver Abildgaard were signed, none were named in the 25 man squad registered with UEFA for the Champions League.
The Jota and Carter-Vickers deal were converted from loans to permanent moves but the decline in quality and starters was underway.
Summarising in the Daily Mail, McGowan notes:
Celtic will point to the examples of Jota, Victor Wanyama, Virgil van Dijk and Jeremie Frimpong and all that cash in the bank and say they’re doing okay. Efforts to snap up a feeder club of their own have been frustrated by the football authorities.
They can’t get their B team into the senior leagues for love nor money. In Matt O’Riley and Reo Hatate, meanwhile, they have more assets to sell.
Of the 23 players signed since the summer of 2022, Jota has delivered a tidy return by moving to Saudi Arabia. Cast an eye over the rest and only Cameron Carter-Vickers and Alistair Johnston are guaranteed first-team starters. None of the nine players signed this summer look oven ready.
On this subject, Rodgers picks his words carefully. There was a hint of something bubbling under the surface when he owned up to craving one or two more players in the last window; most managers did. And, as Rangers and Aberdeen have also discovered, recruitment is the hardest thing to get right.
The return of Carter-Vickers and Maik Nawrocki will probably help. Come the January window, however, head of scouting Mark Lawwell will come under pressure to prove to disgruntled supporters that his status is based on something more than his impeccable connections to the club chairman.
Three out of 23 is a horrendous success rate. There will be a clamour for January signings but with the squad already bloated some players will have to be moved on before any starters are brought in.