"It was strange"; ex-Celtic defender opens up on departure

By Euan Davidson

December 18, 2020

Former Celtic defender Jozo Simunovic has opened up on his departure from the Bhoys.

Released alongside Jonny Hayes at the end of May (BBC), Jozo played 125 times over five years in the Hoops. Having watched Celtic struggle defensively this season, he’s back in training in Zagreb (Herald).

Simunovic, capped 9 times by Croatia’s U-21 team, has been without a club in 20-21. His injury struggles have made him a risky purchase for any club, but Goztepe and Rijeka (Scottish Sun) have been linked with deals.

In the past, Burnley (Daily Mail) and Liverpool (Express) have been rumoured to be after the Croat.

Speaking to the Herald, Simunovic sounded disillusioned as he spoke about his Paradise exit (Herald):

“It was settled that Celtic were going to extend the contract with me and just a few days before they needed to let me know that they were going to extend the deal.

“I got the phone call and a letter saying that they are very sorry but due to the situation with Covid they were stopping it.”

Big Jozo during his Celtic days / (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

An awful shame for the ex-Celt

Simunovic had his detractors during his Celtic stay, but he was clearly in awe of playing for such a huge club.

The defender continued:

“I had amazing memories there because I won everything that is possible. I have many more good memories than bad with Celtic.

“I cannot moan now about my contract finishing and not being extending there, I need to focus on better things, on the great things I did with the club when I was there with my teammates.

“The tackle [on Kenny Miller] is one of them for sure but also many trophies, many finals, many derbies and the testimonials, playing in honour of club legends.”

With Brexit likely to scupper any deal for US youngster Mark McKenzie, Celtic are in the market for cover at centre-back. The Bhoys are acutely aware of the risk involved with re-signing Jozo. Still, until he signs somewhere, rumours will persist.

For Celtic fans, there are great memories attached to Jozo Simunovic. Not least, this tackle on Kenny Miller.

However, his positioning and lack of awareness could leave Celtic looking suspect at the back. He was by no means the finished article, and he was often plagued by injuries. Whether he offers us an upgrade at centre-back this season is highly debatable.

It’s a shame that Jozo is still without a club, and he could easily play in one of Europe’s top 5 leagues. A Celtic return though? It doesn’t seem entirely likely.