Celtic XI: Former Celts tearing it up in other leagues

By Ruari Macneil

January 22, 2018

Modern day Celtic fans are used to seeing relatively unknown players arrive at Celtic Park, develop into top quality footballers and then swiftly move on after being snapped up by financially superior clubs.

It is rare to see a player actually move on to a club more prestigious or bigger in stature than Celtic, instead they just tend to be richer, despite the individual having often improved dramatically from when they initially joined the club. Henrik Larsson is one example, but he stands alone in recent decades.

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Nevertheless, the tradition of developing players and profiting off them has become quite the trend at Parkhead in recent times, and we are going to take a look at a starting XI of former Celtic players that may not have moved on to bigger clubs, but are still currently playing and doing well for their respective clubs.

Formation: 4-1-2-1-2

GK – Fraser Forster

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Big Fraser Forster grew from a Newcastle reject to arguably England’s number one keeper during his time at Celtic Park. The club managed to land him on a permanent deal after two successful loan spells north of the border.

Forster made 197 appearances for Celtic across 4 seasons winning 3 league titles and two Scottish cups. The 6ft7in giant still holds the record for most consecutive clean sheets of any Celtic keeper (13).

Joining Southampton for a fee of £10m in 2014, the big man made his England debut whilst still with the Hoops becoming the first Celt to gain an England call up since Alan Thompson in 2004.

Forster still currently plays for Southampton and has since gone to make over 100 appearances in the Premier League and has taken his number of England caps to 8.

RB – Saidy Janko

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Saidy Janko signed for Celtic from Manchester United in 2015. Never a regular feature in the Celtic team, the Swiss U21 international was still part of the squad that won the 2015/2016 league title under Ronny Deila.

After a loan spell away to Barnsley in the Championship last season, St Etienne came in for the youngster as he secured a permanent move away to France.

The 22-year-old has impressed for the French outfit and has featured in 18 of their 21 Ligue 1 games so far this season. Still with a solid decade of football left in him, he remains a bright talent for future.

CB – Virgin Van Dijk

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Not much else needs to be said about this man. Van Dijk recently secured a £75m move from Southampton to Liverpool, making him the most expensive defender in the history of football.

Everyone at Celtic Park knew he was the real deal from his time with the Hoops. The 26-year-old played over 100 games for Celtic, winning three trophies in Scotland and by the time he had left, he had simply out grown the club in terms of his quality.

One of the greatest players to play for Celtic in recent times, the Dutchman joined Southampton for £13m in 2015. Technically, however, Celtic earned another £7.5m from his sale after he was sold to Liverpool, with the Hoops receiving a 10% cut of any fee Southampton received for him.

A regular in the Netherlands national team, Van Dijk looks to be reaching the summit of European football, as rightfully so.

CB – Charlie Mulgrew

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Celtic’s ‘prodigal son’ probably shouldn’t have been allowed to leave in hindsight. The club were unwilling to reward Mulgrew with a new contract ahead of last season and as a result he left for Blackburn Rovers on a free.

Mulgrew was a terrific servant to the club, filling in all over the pitch in different positions when called upon. The utility man was there before Lennon returned the glory days, seeing the club through its first title winning campaign for three seasons in 2011/2012.

Winning 8 trophies as a Celt, Mulgrew is now a mainstay for Scotland and has been in ridiculous scoring form this season with 11 goals for Blackburn so far.

LB – Emilio Izaguirre

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Honduran international Izaguirre was pretty unlucky that Kirean Tierney turned into one of Europe’s finest young left backs during his time at the club. Had that not happened the Al-Fayha player would probably still be at Celtic Park.

Nonetheless, Izaguirre enjoyed a stellar Celtic career across seven seasons, ending on a high as part of the invincible treble winning side last year. The 98-capped Honduran is one of a few who have picked up every one of Celtic’s 6 league titles in a row.

Playing his football in Saudi Arabia now, it a shame the 31-year-old will not be about for 10-in-a-row.

CDM – Victor Wanyama

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Victor Wanyama was another Celt who left Parkhead for Southampton. The Kenyan was a fan favourite from day one, donning the 67 shirt as a tribute to the Lisbon Lions. He was not only a fan favourite for his shirt number choice, however, as his performances say him grow to become one of the most dominant central midfielders the Scottish league has ever seen.

Wanyama amassed nearly a century of Celtic appearances in his 3 seasons in Glasgow, winning two league titles and the Scottish cup. Since his £12.5m move to Southampton in 2013, the big man has since moved to Tottenham Hotspur and is a regular for the Premier League giants. He too, like Van Dijk, has deservedly reached the top of the game.

CM – Ki Sung-Yeung

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Ki enjoyed 3 seasons at Celtic Park after signing from FC Seoul in 2009. In 2012 he become a league champion having experienced his first piece of silverware the year before in the Scottish Cup final.

Celtic fans will never forget Ki’s long range goals, famously scoring Celtic’s opening goal in the 2011 Scottish Cup final against Motherwell from some 35 yards out.

Securing a move to Swansea City in 2012 for £6m, Ki has remained a regular for the Premier League side amassing 141 appearances so far, winning the club’s player of the year award in 2014/2015.

CM – Joe Ledley

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The 76 times capped Wales player joined Celtic from Cardiff City in 2010. Ledley made over 150 appearances for the club scoring 30 goals and won 3 league titles with the Celts.

In January 2014, the Welshman joined Crystal Palace and enjoyed 3-and-a-half seasons in the Premier League. This season, the former Celtic hero joined Derby and has continued to impress in the Championship.

Ledley famously revealed had he not signed for Palace, in the dying minutes of the January 2014 transfer window, he would have happily signed a new contract with Celtic, leaving Hoops fans thinking, what could have been.

CAM – Stefan Johansen

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Stefan Johansen joined Celtic from Stromsgodset in 2014 and enjoyed a successful 3 seaosn at Parkhead. The Norwegian won 3 league titles and 1 league cup, scoring 19 goals in 113 appearances for The Hoops.

His individual efforts were recognised by his peers as he was voted the SPFA Player’s Player of the Year in 2014/2015. Ahead of last season, Johansen secured a move to Fulham where he has continued to excel.

A regular feature at Craven Cottage, Johansen has played over 60 games for the Cottagers scoring 17 goals so far. He has also captained his country on occasion and has 36 full international caps to his name.

CF – Daryl Murphy

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Daryl Murphy signed for Celtic from Sunderland for £1m in 2010. Unfortunately for the Irishman, he was never able to hold down a regular starting position in the team under Neil Lennon, making only 23 appearances in his time as a Celt.

Nevertheless, Murphy enjoyed some very successful spells away from Parkhead on loan to Ipswich Town, leading the East Anglia club to sign him permanently from the Bhoys following the end of his contract. The Ireland international netted 61 goals in 207 appearances for the club including an impressive 27 in the Championship one season.

Last season was spent at Newcastle where he helped the Toon to the Championship title and promotion. He currently plays for Nottingham Forest and has enjoyed decent scoring form this season with 7 in 13 so far. Along the way, Murphy has almost notched up 30 caps for his country.

CF – Gary Hooper

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Gary Hooper should have never left Celtic. The Englishman hit heights in Scotland that he will likely never repeat, despite impressing a great deal this season in the Championship.

Hooper scored goals for fun whilst at Celtic, notching up 82 goals in 138 appearances. The Sheffield Wednesday player formed a lethal partnership with Anthony Stokes and picked up 4 winners medals during his time at Celtic Park.

Moving on to Norwich City in 2013, Hooper struggled to find his scoring boots at Carrow Road and left after two seasons. Having played for Sheffield Wednesday the past couple of years, the former Celt seems to be back to his best with 11 goals in 25 appearances so far this season.

Which of these former Hoops stars would you still like to see in a Celtic shirt?

List page image © Steve Hogg, Solent Creatives