4 Elhamed replacements that Celtic should consider this January
Celtic’s right-back options will soon be depleted, with Hatem Elhamed looking to move on (Scottish Sun).
With a young family living in Israel and Covid-19 causing travel havoc, it’s no surprise that the right-back needs a permanent move home. It does, however, leave Celtic with a quandary at the back.
Jeremie Frimpong is our outstanding choice on the right side of the defence. However, as we’ve argued, his skills are best utilised further up.
The Dutchman looks more and more like a winger with every performance. Ideally, Celtic need either an out-and-out defender in the position, or a roving defensive winger for a 3-5-2.
We’ve scoured the leagues for options and picked out 4 potential Elhamed replacements.
Boasting perhaps the most English name to have ever existed, Tommy Smith is an experienced right-back who plays for Stoke City.
“Argh! Moritz Bauer!”, I hear you cry. But no, Smith is a very different player to the Die Hard villain we signed from the Potters in 2019.
Like Elhamed, Smith can deputise as a centre-back when needed, and is also a threat going forward. He looks to make the simple pass, is an efficient crosser and commits to the ugly side of the game well.
With season averages of 1.5 tackles and 2.1 clearances per game (WhoScored?), Smith is an industrious full-back who moves the ball well and is proficient in defensive situations.
He might not be the flashiest player in the world, but it’s defensive solidity that Celtic need in this position. Valued at £1.62m by Transfermarkt, the Manchester City academy graduate could be available for close to the £4m Stoke paid for him in 2019.
Of course, Celtic could just look within the academy and pluck a promising player from a spell on loan.
At 20 years old, O’Connor has seen plenty of playing time at Tranmere Rovers this season. Capped 11 times by the Ireland U-21 team, he might be playing at League Two level currently, but he has bags of potential.
In 1158 minutes for Tranmere, O’Connor has averaged 1.4 tackles, 0.9 interceptions and 2.4 clearances a game (WhoScored?).
Fine, that’s at a level far below Celtic’s. But the Waterford-born right-back must have something about him, given his footballing education took place at Manchester United.
Yes, he’s raw, but his defensive instincts are sound and he’s been playing 90 minutes regularly in England. We wouldn’t have to pay anything and he’s an Irish youth international.
Bringing O’Connor into the first-team fold seems like the kind of decision Celtic would make, currently.
Valued at £9m by Transfermarkt, the idea of Celtic signing Danish international Joakim Maehle might seem far-fetched.
However, if Celtic want to turn around this dismal season, many fans will be expecting big moves. By signing Maehle, the club could sew up the right-back position for years to come.
Only 23, Maehle has laid on 4 assists and scored once for KRC Genk so far this term. The Belgian side signed the Dane for just over £1m in 2017, and it was a low-risk gamble that paid off.
A versatile defender who can play on either side, Maehle is reminiscent of prime Mikael Lustig. Able to run effectively with the ball and create opportunities, he’s also a colossus in defence.
Forgive me, stat cynics, but look: 2 tackles, 2.2 interceptions and 1.9 clearances a game so far this season (WhoScored?). That’s elite.
Southampton (of course it’s Southampton, it’s always Southampton) had a €11.5m bid turned down for the Dane (OneFootball). It’s safe to say that Maehle is on the radar of a number of clubs.
Those kinds of fees might seem eye-watering for a club like Celtic, but Maehle would undoubtedly be moved on for a healthy profit.
The board have shown ambition in the past. After all, Celtic shelled out £9m for Odsonne Edouard (Sky Sports). It might seem a little beyond the realms of possibility, but the Bhoys could do tremendous business here.
If a £10m+ signing doesn’t do it for you, perhaps another loan move for a Premier League squad player will.
Neco Williams has seen himself thrown into the proverbial deep end this season. Deputising for Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back, the young Welshman has played 188 minutes of Champions League football in 20-21.
With Jürgen Klopp forced to play a litany of youngsters (Mirror), Williams’ rapid ascent to the first team has been hastened significantly.
He’s a good player, though. Once Liverpool’s fixture build-up calms, there may be room for Williams to develop outside of Anfield. A loan deal might suit all parties, here.
Impressing for club and country, Williams has averaged over 2 tackles and interceptions per game at elite European club level (WhoScored?), and is already used to pressure. A club like Liverpool won’t give you minutes if you can’t handle yourself.
With Adam Matthews and Joe Ledley making their mark in Paradise, perhaps there’s room for another Welshman to win the fans over. Albeit on a temporary basis, Williams would immediately improve our squad.
Whether Liverpool would let him go is another matter altogether. Still, we reckon it’s worth a go.