Celtic squad review: a supporter's take on who to keep, who to sell

By Euan Davidson

February 18, 2021

This Celtic squad summary was written by Celtic fan and SM Media contributor Max Halliday. You can find his often hilarious musings about the Hoops on his Twitter page.

The upcoming summer rebuild will be amongst the biggest in Celtic’s history. With many players either at, or near the end of their contract, and a significant amount of deadwood that needs shifted, incoming CEO Dominic McKay will have a huge job on his hands.

Let’s assess the current Celtic squad and decide which players are worth keeping going into next season and beyond.


Celtic goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Celtic squad review from back to front: First up, between the sticks 

Vasilis Barkas – A Greek international and Champions League level goalkeeper who has failed to adapt to life in Glasgow during a global pandemic and subsequently been thrown under the bus by his manager. He hasn’t been as bad as many people will make out. However, with little help from his defence, Barkas has failed to make the same game-saving saves that Fraser Forster did last season.

His performances against Celtic in the Champions League qualifiers for his former club AEK Athens show there is a goalkeeper in there. He is one that could be worked on with a different management team in a less pressurised situation. 

Verdict – Keep 

Scott Bain – Scott Bain has shown over the last few seasons that he is nothing better than a back-up goalkeeper in the Celtic squad. He did have a spell between January and April 2019 where he looked like he could have been number 1 for us, however he had a poor performance at Ibrox and failed to recover.

I’d imagine he is on a relatively small wage and as he’s homegrown, he helps towards squad registration for Europe. He may wish to leave for more regular action but ideally, he would stick around but as a third choice rather than second. 

Verdict – Keep 

Conor Hazard – The cup-final hero was thrown into the team this season and performed admirably for a player of his age and experience. Hazard showed a good level of shot-stopping ability. Still, in big matches, he was unable to command his area. When it came to set-pieces he was a nervous wreck.

At 22, and given that goalkeepers generally peak later, he should still be considered a youngster. He would benefit from a full season on loan at another Premiership club to work on his deficiencies. 

Verdict – Loan Out 

Greg Taylor in action for Celtic / (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)


Full-back options 

Anthony Ralston – An unspectacular player if ever there was one. Ralston has very limited technical ability meaning he is out of his depth in the Celtic squad. He can be solid defensively and contribute effectively to attacks, meaning he will easily forge a career with another SPFL side. Just not with us.  

Verdict – Sell 

Greg Taylor – The most improved player of the season. If anyone appears to have benefitted from the ill-fated trip to Dubai, it appears to be Greg Taylor.

He was always a solid defender but up until recently, he lacked the ability to contribute in an attacking sense which is a basic requirement for a Celtic full-back. In recent games, however, he has been getting forward more confidently and more effectively. To the extent that he has displaced Uruguayan international loanee Diego Laxalt from the starting berth at left-back. At only 23, he still has a lot of improvement to go before reaching his potential. 

Verdict – Keep 

Kristoffer Ajer in action for Celtic against Livingston / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Kris Ajer + who?

Christopher Jullien – Currently on the treatment table for near enough the remainder of the season, the big Frenchman will have his eye on reclaiming his spot in the centre of Celtic’s defence next season. He isn’t perfect and has struggled particularly on plastic pitches against physical opposition strikers however his ability in the air in both boxes [Transfermarkt] Still, his reputation as a big-game player mean he is someone we should be keeping around for the Celtic squda. 

Verdict – Keep 

Nir Bitton – One of the Celtic’s longest-serving players, Bitton has played in both central midfield and latterly in central defence during his 8-year stay at the club. His appearances this season have been limited to defence and his ability on the ball can be a useful tool against teams that sit in and defend when they visit Celtic Park.

Defensively though, he hasn’t been great. Bitton’s made costly mistakes, including a silly sending off at Ibrox. He isn’t the sort of player that we should be building our team around moving forward. 

Verdict – Sell 

Kristoffer Ajer – The big Norwegian has been the stand-out player in the Celtic team this season, putting in a string of brilliant performances at both centre back and right back. Come the end of the season, Kris Ajer will only have a year left on his contract.

If he has no interest in signing a new deal then, unfortunately, it will make business sense to sell him. His unique skillset will be missed and a similar player would ideally come in to replace him. He will go for a substantial fee that could be re-invested and the Celtic support will wish him well for the future. 

Verdict – Sell 

Stephen Welsh – The youngster has been impressive during his limited spell in the team. Recently, he’s replaced Shane Duffy to partner Ajer in the heart of the defence. He appears to be a confident young lad who just goes about his business quietly, keeping things simple and winning most of his duels. A far cry from Duffy.

Welsh opened his Celtic account recently with a header against Motherwell [WhoScored?]. He should be given the opportunity from now until the end of the season to cement his place in the Celtic team ahead of the rebuild. 

Verdict – Keep 

Celtic manager Neil Lennon with Scott Brown / (Photo by Craig Foy/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Cogs in the Celtic engine

Scott Brown – The end of this season was always going to feel like a fitting time for Scott Brown to retire, regardless of the outcome. Coincidently when the final ball is kicked this season, his contract will be expired.

Broony is at the end of his playing career which is evident from his performances this season. That said, he will go down as one of Celtic’s greatest and most successful ever captains. It may not be the end for Scott Brown at Celtic though, there should be a role for him at the club when the boots are finally hung up for the last time. 

Verdict – Retirement 

Ismaila Soro – Enthusiastic Ivorian Soro has replaced Scott Brown in the team over the last couple of months and has added energy, zip and freshness to the squad. The youngster has all the attributes of a good ball-winning midfielder. Capable of reading and breaking up the play, he is quick, strong despite his smaller frame, and even showed recently against Dundee Utd that he can score from range [BBC]. Soro is one of three players that we should build the midfield around moving forward. 

Verdict – Keep 

David Turnbull – One of the three we should build our midfield around. David Turnbull has the technical ability to be a top player for Celtic. Since impressing in the Europa League against Lille he has remained in the team racking up an impressive output of goals and assists [Transfermarkt].

Turnbull has proven himself to be the best set-piece taker at the club. He is the sort of player capable of moments of magic out of nothing which has already made him very popular amongst the Celtic fans.  

Verdict – Keep 

Ryan Christie – Up until this season, Ryan Christie was highly rated amongst Hoops fans. In 20-21, he’s become an extremely frustrating player to watch. His bizarre enthusiasm for long-range pot-shots has become a theme of Celtic’s struggles this season.

How much this is down to him personally or instruction from his manager is unknown. Ironically the only ones he’s scored from have both been in last seasons’ Scottish Cup. He has also been incredibly wasteful in possession and from set-pieces. Like Ajer, Christie is another one who is out of contract at the end of next season, and it would make sense to sell him this summer.  

Verdict – Sell 

Tom Rogic – The Celtic support will always have a special place for Tom Rogic in their hearts. The Australian has been the source of so many memorable goals over the years in derby matches and cup finals, including the winner against Aberdeen in the 16-17 Scottish Cup Final to secure the invincible treble.

Rogic, however, has struggled for form and game time over the last couple of seasons. On his day he still has that magic in him, but these games are getting rarer as time goes on. He almost left to sign for a team in Qatar last summer and the end of this season will feel like a natural end to his Celtic career. 

Verdict – Sell 

Luca Connell – How good is Luca Connell? It’s a question that no one knows the answer to. It’s impossible not to feel sorry for the lad, he signed from the Bolton first team in summer 2019 but has yet to make his competitive debut for Celtic. That’s despite looking impressive in the friendly matches he’s been involved in. Connell needs a loan move to get back playing first-team football again. Then, we can take it from there. 

Verdict – Loan Out 

Callum McGregor – The next club captain and the last of the midfield 3 that we should base the squad around with Soro and Turnbull. CalMac would admit himself that his performances have been below par this season. But with a fresh outlook under a new manager hopefully, on the horizon, you wouldn’t bet against McGregor to be at his brilliant best again next season.

The vice captain has often been the voice of the dressing room this season, and is usually the one thrown in front of the cameras after difficult results. He has been open and honest in these interviews. That’s more than can be said of a lot of others associated with the club. 

Verdict – Keep 

Ewan Henderson – Another player who can count himself unlucky to have had as little game time as has transpired. It looked like he was just breaking into the side under Brendan Rodgers but only made a handful of appearances under Neil Lennon. There is potential in this lad, but he is at the age now where game time is vital to his development. He would benefit immensely from a full season loan with a view to breaking into the Celtic side long term. 

Verdict – Loan Out 

Celtic winger Mikey Johnston / (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Our love was on the wing…

Mikey Johnston – A long-term injury halted Mikey Johnston’s progress last term. Johnstone is a young man with the ability to beat an opponent which shouldn’t be underestimated and is a calm and composed finisher. Mikey just needs to find his place in the Celtic team.

He has a long way to go to reach his peak but as we are currently short on wingers, he is one of the players on who the rebuild should be focused around. 

Verdict – Keep 

James Forrest – James Forrest was Mikey Johnston a decade ago. Forrest, for the most part, has found his potential at Celtic and been a reliable and important player, becoming the 18-19 SPFL player of the year in the process [Herald].

The winger’s form dipped at the beginning of this season, then he got injured in September. Despite his lack of form, there is no doubt his presence has been missed. He will be eager to get back to his best and to reclaim a starting spot.  

Verdict – Keep 

Karamoko Dembélé – Out of contract this summer, and it seems he has no intention of renewing. We could be missing out on a generational talent. There should be no ill-feelings towards the lad. I don’t blame any young player for wanting to leave as there appears to be no route to the Celtic squad.

It’s been almost 2 years since Karamoko made his impressive debut against Hearts aged 16. Since then, you can count on one hand how many games he’s played. He’s been mismanaged badly. If there’s a chance he’d stick around under a new manager then we should be delighted. But at this point, it seems unlikely. 

Verdict – Out of Contract

Odsonne Edouard celebrates scoring for Celtic / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Up front for the Bhoys

Leigh Griffiths – In many ways, I sympathise greatly with Leigh Griffiths. His well-publicised mental health issues and the fact he is a target of some of the most awful abuse from rival supporters make discussing him feel more sensitive in a lot of ways. He is also an extremely talented footballer and has contributed with more than 100 goals for the club [Transfermarkt].

Due to his age and ongoing fitness concerns though, he is no longer a player who the club should be keeping around long-term. 

Verdict – Sell 

Albian Ajeti – After an explosive start to his Celtic career with 3 goals in his first 4 games [WhoScored?], Ajeti suffered an injury, the goals dried up and he found himself out the side. He is a penalty-box striker who often appears to be missing in games but if given a consistent run in the side, he would score goals.

Celtic spent a significant outlay on him and an impressive history in a league of similar quality with Basel, I would like to see him stay and get given a fair crack of the whip under a new manager. 

Verdict – Keep 

Patryk Klimala – The Polish striker has shown in glimpses that he is a hard-working and determined player but with coachable flaws. He could be given a new lease of life under new management. Klimala will be 23 when next season kicks off, though. If he isn’t given regular game time soon, he may look to leave for the sake of his career. The big centre-forward needs a run of games in the Celtic side so a final judgement can be made.  

Verdict – Keep 

Odsonne Edouard – This summer will spell the end of a fantastic few years in the hoops for Odsonne Edouard. As he is in a similar situation to Ajer and Christie, he will be sold in the summer. The fee is unclear but the contract situation means Celtic may have to sell below his market value. The Frenchman has scored an array of goals and has been a joy to watch for the Hoops fans. Edouard’s ability and attacking talent will be missed greatly.  

Verdict – Sell 

Mohamed Elyounoussi is one of four Celtic loan players signed by Neil Lennon / (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group via Getty Images)


Celtic squad: Players in on loan 

Shane Duffy – I was guilty of believing the hype around Shane Duffy and thinking he would be exactly what we needed in the heart of our defence. He has been exactly the opposite. His loan spell has been littered with costly errors and he shouldn’t be considered in our future. 

Verdict – No Celtic Future 

Jonjoe Kenny – It’s probably too early to make a judgement with regards to his footballing abilities. Given he is a 6-month loan without an option to buy, I don’t see him being part of a future Celtic squad. 

Verdict – No Celtic Future

Diego Laxalt – Looked good to start with and he has a lot of energy and enthusiasm. More recently, though, he has shown inability to cross the ball effectively. Deservedly displaced by Greg Taylor. 

Verdict – No Celtic Future 

Mohamed Elyounoussi – A high-quality footballer who has served the club well over the last couple of seasons. However, he will command too high a transfer fee and wages for the club. Shame, as he’s been a valuable member of the Celtic squad.

Verdict – No Celtic Future

Jack Hendry in Belgium / (Photo by KURT DESPLENTER/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

Celtic squad: Players out on loan

Jack Hendry – Has reportedly found a home in Belgium, making 20 appearances for KV Oostende [Transfermarkt] and performing well in the heart of their defence. He is however unlikely to ever be good enough to play for Celtic. Remaining in Belgium would be a move that benefits all parties.

Verdict – Sell 

Andrew Gutman & Manny Perez – Can be compiled together, because there is little evidence to offer an opinion on either player in terms of the Celtic squad.

Verdict – Who knows?

Boli Bolingoli – Having only managed 13 appearances on loan in Turkey due to a lengthy knee injury, his on-field progress has been hard to monitor. After the much-maligned Spain trip, I don’t imagine he will be welcome back in the dressing room. It’s fine; he wasn’t particularly good at Celtic anyway. 

Verdict – Sell 

Marian Shved – I feel sorry for Shved, hung out to dry by both Rodgers and Lennon. He hasn’t been given a chance to show what he’s all about in the Celtic squad. Yet, he’s thriving in Belgium. He has scored 4 goals in his last 10 games for KV Mechelen. Shved has been a star performer in important games in Belgium [WhoScored?].

Verdict – Keep 

Olivier Ntcham – Last season’s Stadio Olimpico hero has recently joined Marseille in his native France on loan until the end of the season with an option to buy. The French outfit have seemingly signed him without the go-ahead from then manager Andre Villas-Boas. AVB subsequently left the club, stating Ntcham’s signing as a reason why. This puts his future in jeopardy. Still, it’s clear he does not want to be in the Celtic squad. The Frenchman has been angling for a move for some time.

Verdict – Sell 

Vakoun Issouf Bayo – The Ivorian target-man has done reasonably well in French Ligue 2 with Toulouse this season with 6 goals in 20 appearances [Transfermarkt]. Bayo’s combative approach makes him a different type of option but he is unlikely to ever become a regular fixture in our starting 11. 

Verdict – Sell

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