Ligue 1 hot-shot and Celtic target Nathanael Mbuku struggles after transfer link

By Euan Davidson

January 22, 2021

Only two weeks ago, Celtic were linked with Nathanael Mbuku.

A versatile attacking midfielder, Mbuku won the silver ball at the Under-17 World Cup in 2019, having scored a hatful of goals. Brazil won the tournament, but the Frenchman put himself on the map as a player to watch (FIFA).

This season, he’s had opportunities with his local club Stade de Reims. With Celtic supposedly facing competition from Lille and Parma for his signature (Foot Mercato), it looked as if Mbuku would be the subject of a transfer tug of war.

Excitingly for Celtic fans, Mbuku looked exactly like the kind of successful move we’ve made in the past. Moussa Dembélé, Odsonne Edouard and Christopher Jullien set a precedent for French players in recent years.

However, it’s all gone a bit quiet on that front. Mbuku, for his part, has been getting regular game time under Reims coach David Guion. Since being linked with Celtic, the forward has started two games.

He played on the right of midfield against St. Etienne and Lille, with Reims picking up 3 points from a possible 6 over the last two games.

Reported Celtic target Nathanael Mbuku: how’s he been doing? / (Photo by PASCAL GUYOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Celtic target Mbuku has been quiet, but still promising

Still very early on his career, Mbuku will be pleased by starting Ligue 1 matches.

Against ASSE, he was quiet. The Frenchman only managed 25 touches of the ball before hauled off on the 64th minute (WhoScored?). Reims won the game 3-1, with goals from Dia and Cafaro making the difference.

While that was a successful run-out for Mbuku’s side, the next game against Lille would be less fruitful. Mbuku was on the pitch for longer, but couldn’t stop his team slumping to a 2-1 defeat away from home.

The reported Celtic target was more involved in Reims’ play, but he still couldn’t muster as much of the ball as his midfield partners. In two games, no goals or assists and a muted impact from the youngster.

Nevertheless, big things are expected for the young attacker. Get French Football News described Mbuku as Reims’ “next starlet”, footage shows (YouTube) that he’s lightning-quick, and has no problem taking the ball on from his own half.

Maybe there isn’t a big enough sample size for the Bhoys to truly justify spending big on the Frenchman. Fans will be hoping that more will come from Mbuku, but he’s at least getting big game experience at a young age.