Ten titles in a row. That’s the remarkable achievement Celtic and Neil Lennon are looking to achieve next season.
The English Premier League may have only just finished, but in just six days time, Scottish football will be back.
Celtic’s pre-season preparations have been intriguing, embarking on a visit to France to take on a number of their best sides.
A draw with Nice was followed up with back to back defeats against Lyon and PSG.
However, they did beat Ross County on Sunday afternoon, a win that was sure to give the Hoops a little more confidence.
A number of players have already departed the club over the summer, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if a few others walked through the Parkhead exit door.
That seems to be the order of the day in Glasgow. If someone plays well, England and Europe often come calling. In recent years, for instance, they’ve seen the likes of Moussa Dembele and Kieran Tierney depart.
With Rangers incredibly active in the transfer market and looking to bounce back from their disappointing 2019/20 campaign, Celtic can’t afford some form of mass exodus.
Though, out of the current squad, what are the priorities? GIVEMESPORT assesses who should be sold, loaned or kept at the club.
Let’s start between the sticks…
Scott Bain – keep: The Scottish stopper is now the club’s first-choice goalkeeper and unless they sign another one, will be relied upon between the posts. Bain has started a number of pre-season fixtures and unfortunately, hasn’t been able to do much about the goals he’s conceded. With Fraser Forster and Craig Gordon both exiting, he needs to stick around.
Conor Hazard – loan: Now the second choice ‘keeper, he was last loaned out to Dundee United. Another spell could do him the world of good with chances once more looking far-fetched. If the Bhoys sign another goalkeeper he should be shipped again.
Christopher Jullien – keep: Arriving last summer from Toulouse, the central defender is a force to be reckoned with and has quickly become one of the first names on the teamsheet. The 27-year-old played a massive 46 times last term and scored seven goals in the process. He is business well done.
Greg Taylor – keep: Because of a lack of options, the left-back needs to be kept at Celtic Park. He was shaky at times in 2019/20 but overall, is a valued option on the left-hand side. Taylor is always keen to overlap his man and contributed to five goals last term. He’s certainly worth keeping around.
Boli Bolingoli – sell: The 25-year-old arrived from Austria only last summer but he hasn’t exactly set the world alight with a knee problem troubling the left-sided player for a good chunk of the season. However, the fact he was barely in the squad after regaining fitness speaks volumes. Bolignoli also looked severely out of his depth against Lyon. Easier tests will come but it certainly didn’t bode well.
Jeremie Frimpong – keep: The former Manchester City defender is much admired at Celtic and has come a long way in his first full season at the club. Neil Lennon once said he was one of the best youngster’s he’s ever managed. The Hoops surely wouldn’t even consider a sale.
Hatem Abd Elhamed – keep: The defender hasn’t been at his best in pre-season but offers valuable back-up to the likes of Jullien and Kristoffer Ajer in defence. With Jozo Simunovic out the door, they need someone like Elhamed to remain in the squad.
Kristoffer Ajer – keep: The imposing defender was a pillar of excellence last season, showing fabulous defensive nous but also proving his ability to play out from the back. The likes of Tottenham, Leicester and Milan have all been chasing him but unless the money is huge, they have to keep him.
Anthony Ralston – sell: With Frimpong coming through the ranks it’s difficult to see Ralston making a future for himself in Glasgow. The 21-year-old has been subjected to numerous loan spells and with just 10 Celtic appearances under his belt, has seen better days at Parkhead. Hammond and co would be wise to ship him on.
Celtic’s midfield is incredibly strong. They possess Moi Elyounoussi, James Forrest, Ryan Christie, Scott Brown and Callum McGregor but there are a few players whose futures are very much up for debate.
All of the above should be kept around, but what happens to the rest of Lennon’s midfield?
Nir Bitton – keep: The versatile player has been inconsistent in pre-season but the real measure of his performances will come in the SPFL. The fact he can play in both defence and midfield is a real plus point for Lennon. Definitely keep.
Ismaila Soro – keep: The Ivorian finally made his debut in pre-season after joining in January. He has barely had a glimpse of action since arriving but he deserves a proper run in the side to show what he’s capable of. With Brown getting no younger, they could have a successor on their hands.
Tom Rogic – sell: The Australian has been linked away in the past and when you consider the vast array of options in the middle of the park, they’d be foolish to turn down any advances. He featured just 22 times last term and Celtic certainly have better alternatives. This could be the time to move Rogic on.
Mikey Johnston – loan: Having signed a new five-year deal last December, Lennon clearly has high hopes for the winger but that’s an area of the pitch where they’re well-stocked. Johnston played just 21 times in all competitions and despite registering 12 goal involvements, could do with a temporary spell elsewhere to develop further.
Marian Shved – loan: The diminutive flanker has played just once for Celtic and hasn’t really managed to settle into life in Scotland. Shved clearly has potential but at the age of 23, he’ll have to start showing it sooner rather than later. Perhaps a loan move can impress Lennon?
Olivier Ntcham – keep: He has been linked with Southampton and West Ham recently but at the age of 24, he has his best years ahead of him and can be a real bulldozer for Celtic. If they can keep him fit, then Ntcham is someone capable of changing the outcome of a match. They have to vanish interest from elsewhere.
Luca Connell – loan: Since his move from Bolton last year, the teenager has barely had a look in and with a number of players ahead of him in midfield, could really do with a temporary switch.
Karamoko Dembele – keep: It’s easy to forget the Englishman is just 17 years of age but he still has the world at his feet and a lot to learn. A loan move still feels premature despite his impressive rise. Like Connell, he rarely featured last term but has been eye-catching for the reserves.
Leigh Griffiths – keep: The Scot has had his problems but he was in imperious form towards the back end of last season, scoring a hat-trick and showing that he does indeed still have the ability to find the back of the net. He is very good back-up for Edouard.
Vakoun Issouf Bayo – loan: He signed last summer but like the vast majority of signings in 2019/20 failed to make too much of an impact. Bayo scored just two goals all season – clearly he is not good enough.
Patryk Klimala – keep: Young Polish striker Klimala struggled for action after signing in January but has finally been given a chance in pre-season. The forward scored against Nice and is now beginning to prove his worth.
Odsonne Edouard – keep: He was Celtic’s Player of the Season last term for a reason and unless a monumental bid comes in, they need to keep hold of him. Edouard is the club’s star player and if they’re going to win ten in a row, he needs to stay.
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