After Gutman disappointment, mystery still surrounds Celtic option Manny Perez

By Euan Davidson

March 12, 2021

Back in 2019, Celtic signed two promising American youngsters, Andrew Gutman and Manny Perez.

Gutman and Perez agreed deals to join the Bhoys after impressing at Universities in Indiana and North Carolina, respectively [Sky Sports]. Neither arrived to a great deal of fanfare, however the US market was well worth investing in.

Over recent years, the likes of Christian Pulisic, Timothy Weah and Giovanni Reyna have moved to Europe. With the Bundesliga’s constant development of North American talent, Celtic were surely hoping to emulate the likes of BVB and Wolfsburg.

Given the popularity of Celtic in the USA, it was a potentially lucrative decision to make. Akin to selling Celtic shirts in Japan with Shunsuke Nakamura, the Bhoys could have exploited a monied market, with ‘soccer’ on the rise in North America.

The Bhoys are well-followed stateside, with an official group of CSCs operating from New York to Hawaii [NAFCSC]. A big American talent in the Celtic squad would be a huge boost to the club’s commercial opportunities.

So far, the experiment hasn’t really worked. In fact, Andrew Gutman has signed for Atlanta United [MLS] without ever making a competitive appearance for the Bhoys. Manny Perez, meanwhile, is enduring work permit issues, but is reportedly desperate to get his chance in the Green and White.

Manny Perez, for North Carolina FC / (Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

What of Celtic signing Manny Perez?

It’s particularly frustrating that Manny Perez hasn’t been able to get a game for Celtic yet. Perez made 14 appearances for North Carolina FC, scoring once and making one assist [Transfermarkt]. Admittedly, it’s not barnstorming form, but he can play anywhere on the right.

That flank has been a huge weakness for the Bhoys in 20-21. Jeremie Frimpong departed for Leverkusen, while Hatem Abd Elhamed also left the club. Beyond loanee Jonjoe Kenny, the next option is Anthony Ralston.

From either a defensive or attacking perspective, Perez’s versatility could’ve helped Celtic this season. In October 2020, Perez expressed frustration about not being able to play in the Hoops, with international clearance taking a bizarrely long time.

Perez said [Scottish Sun]:

“I’m in love with Celtic. We have the best fans in the world. I have a Celtic TV account, so I’ve been keeping up with the games.

“If I can get my permit to go through, we can just move forward from there.

“My agent and I are trying to sort things out, and have been in constant communication with the club.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to work it out soon.”

Gutman situation gives unfortunate signal

It’s beyond strange that since October, Perez’s situation hasn’t worked out. His career is coming to a standstill in the meantime, with the right-sided player in work permit lingo. Admittedly, he probably hasn’t done enough to justify clearance to work in the UK, but Celtic should’ve had a better plan in place, having signed Perez and Gutman in 2019.

It’s frustrating to watch Gutman leave without making an impression.

The club should work to at least allow Perez a chance. We’re not privy to the procedure clubs need to go through, in its entirety. It’s undoubtedly very complicated.

But the Gutman situation implies that Celtic might well give up on Perez, too. That’d be an awful shame, given his playing position. There must’ve been enough potential seen by Celtic scouts to justify signing him in the first place. Ditto Gutman, but his jettisoning implies that Perez’s Celtic future is similarly bleak.

It’d be a dreadful waste to strike out on two signings.

That’s a baseball reference, there.

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