Celtic may have loaned out an exhaustive list of players this season, but there are 5 proper first-teamers who have enjoyed spells away from the club.
Going to former Turkish league Champions, storied clubs like Marseille, or reinventing themselves in Belgium, it’s been an interesting season.
But under a new Celtic manager, are they worth keeping? Have they done enough to justify a first-team berth in 21-22, or should we cash in ASAP?
Here are our verdicts on 5 key players Celtic have loaned out.
Vakoun Issouf Bayo
There’s always been an argument for a tall target man at Celtic. We’ve had some successes in the past, with Chris Sutton and John Hartson winning battles in the air, and either scoring or setting up the likes of Henrik Larsson.
Under Rodgers, Deila and Lennon, the lack of a Plan B was a source of frustration. When Vakoun Issouf Bayo arrived in 2019, the Ivorian looked like a very sensible option. Prolific in Slovakia, the physical goalscorer seemed like the type of striker Celtic could utilise against stubborn Scottish defences. Or, provide an impetus late on in European matches.
It didn’t really turn out that way, and a loan to Toulouse looked like a decent shout. However, he’s only managed 9 goals in all competitions [Transfermarkt]. That isn’t Celtic striker form, I’m afraid. Having been linked with ES Tunis, it’d probably be a good option to sell Bayo.
Olivier Ntcham: another chance at Celtic?
Olivier Ntcham has had an absolute disaster at Marseille. That’s been pretty well-established by now. The French midfielder, who shone under Brendan Rodgers and, to some degree under Neil Lennon, has endured a season to forget by anyone’s standards.
He seemed to talk himself out of a return to Scotland, but it might actually be the best thing for him. A mercurial talent, Ntcham undoubtedly has the skills to be an impactful player. We’ve seen that on many occasions, but we’ve watched him barely make a mark just as many times.
Undoubtedly a frustrating player, it could well be that Neil Lennon and Ntcham weren’t a good match. Under a different manager, Ntcham could be the focal point of a Celtic midfield, alongside Callum McGregor and David Turnbull. If there’s a way of getting the former Man City player to tick, then he’s worth keeping.
At the very least, we have little to really gain from selling him. His stock isn’t what it was, and he knows it too.
Jack Hendry – a loan success story
Young Jack Hendry turned 26 today, and if there was a time for him to dither on a move, this isn’t it. Not that he is, but he’ll certainly have a number of options this summer.
KV Oostende, where Hendry has revitalised his career, have an option to buy him. If they do, you can imagine the Belgian side immediately turning a profit on the defender. For sure, he’s had an excellent season, and he’s recently made headlines by calling his team-mate a ‘Space Cadet’, which is a good laugh.
But I have a feeling that the Belgian top-flight is supremely overrated. It’s for that reason I’m in two minds here. It makes sense to, in the event Hendry doesn’t get his Oostende move, keep the ex-Dundee man in the pre-season squad and see what he can do under a new manager.
Obviously there’s some talent there, but it’s also possible that his stint in Belgium says more about the standard of strikers he’s facing than his own revitalising loan spell. Maybe that’s cynical, but if we can keep him in the short-term, it could be a prudent move.
Verdict: Keep, but with caveats
“Free Shved!”, I hear you cry. I agree, but perhaps not in the same manner as the half-ironic Celtic fan meme. Shved is, by anyone’s standards, a “flop” of a signing. It’s a horrible term to use, but Shved has had such a minimal impact that it’s hard to see him actually coming back to Celtic and making an impact.
We wondered for months why he wasn’t getting a game, but it became apparent when, at KV Mechelen, his manager publicly decried his lack of desire and his difficult temperament. There’s no way Neil Lennon would’ve indulged that, regardless of how well he might play.
He seems to have got over himself now, but to me, he just isn’t of a Celtic standard. Much has been made of his “revival” in Belgium, but the points made for Hendry are the same here. Also, he’s been decent, at absolute best. For a winger, 2 assists in the Jupiler Pro is actually pretty poor [Transfermarkt].
Boli Bolingoli – a Celtic outcast worth another look
You know what?
I’ve felt really bad for Boli Bolingoli. Yes, his excursion to Spain was absolutely daft, but it was somewhat undermined by the whole squad going to Dubai in the depths of a pandemic. It’s hard to seriously suggest he’s an idiot, when the the decision makers at our club can attempt to justify travelling to the Middle East when we couldn’t see our own families.
Ravaged by injury this season, Bolingoli has barely featured in a difficult season for Istanbul Besaksehir. Last year’s Champions have fallen away rather spectacularly, and that’s a shame. In Bolingoli’s last three appearances, since overcoming a four-month lay-off, they’ve drawn once and won twice, which might be enough to ensure league safety.
It’s worth remembering that Bolingoli had some excellent games in a Celtic shirt. No, he’s not the Kieran Tierney replacement we wanted, but would he honestly have been any worse than Uruguay and AC Milan defender Diego Laxalt this season? I’d argue not.
He might’ve burnt his bridges, but he’s still a very decent player when he’s fit.