When Celtic take on Cluj this Thursday night in Romania, there is one potential side-story worth looking at regarding Billel Omrani.
The Frenchman was linked with a move to Parkhead back in August by Romanian newspaper GSP. They claimed that the Hoops were closing in on a £3million deal for the big striker. However, nothing ended up coming out of it as he stayed at Cluj beyond the closure of the summer transfer window.
Yet the link wasn’t a ridiculous one. Omrani starred in that infamous Champions League qualifier at Parkhead weeks before the link. He bagged a fine brace as he took advantage of some shocking Celtic man-marking to send his club through to the playoff round.
Fast-forward four months and it’s been a productive campaign for the forward overall. He has 13 goals to his name in 26 appearances, with seven of those coming in Europe (Transfermarkt). In his Europa League group stage campaign, he’s only netted once against Lazio on matchday one.
The spotlight was on him once more when he came back to Parkhead in October. That night, he came up against Christopher Jullien for the first time and found himself bullied out of the game. It wasn’t an impressive performance from Omrani, who struggled to get Cluj up the pitch.
What Omrani will turn up on Thursday?
Since that Celtic clash, he’s failed to get back to his early-season goalscoring form. In fact, he’s only managed two goals in all competitions. Whether that’s down to poor performances or just sheer luck, who knows?
But on Thursday night, he has to step up for his club. Cluj need only a point against Celtic to ensure qualification from the Europa League group stages. Omrani will likely be the man tasked to get the goals for them this week too.
Neil Lennon, meanwhile, has already made it known that he could be interested in a striker this January (BBC). If there was any interest in Omrani in the summer, a positive display on Thursday night could be a big way for him to prove he should be on our shortlist.
As Celtic fans, we don’t see enough of him on a weekly-basis to judge whether he would be worth it. So far against Celtic, he’s stood out on one of a possible three occasions. Against a quality partnership in Jullien and Kris Ajer, if Lenny does indeed choose both, it’s the perfect platform for him on Thursday to show if we should reignite whatever interest we had in the summer.
That’s something Celtic will need to be wary of in Romania. He should be hungry to impress on top of his desire to see his side through. For us as fans, it’ll be good to get another glimpse of him in a big game to see what he’s got.
Should he flop, however, he surely won’t have done enough over the four games to merit further interest.