Centre-back Mark McKenzie has spoken out on his future plans after being encouraged not to move to Celtic by MLS pundit Charlie Davies

The Hoops had been linked with a move McKenzie by Sky Sports over the course of the summer. However, a move failed to come to fruition, with Sky reporter Anthony Joseph admitting after the window that the club was still monitoring him.

Since then, Celtic haven’t had their troubles to seek at the back. The arrival of Shane Duffy hasn’t particularly shored up the defence, whilst a settled defensive trio has yet to be identified and fielded consistently.

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Meanwhile, things couldn’t be going better for McKenzie, who continues to shine in the MLS. He’s made 20 appearances already this season, and has only conceded more than one goal in a game on five occasions (Transfermarkt). The young American has been speaking about his future, and it appears he only has eyes for the top.

Mark McKenzie keeps the ball away from Gonzalo Higuain

Mark McKenzie keeps the ball away from Gonzalo Higuain (Photo by Ira L. Black – Corbis/Getty Images)

Speaking on official MLS podcast Extra-Time, McKenzie was urged by Davies to go straight to one of Europe’s top leagues and avoid a move to Scotland. This was McKenzie’s response:

“Ultimately it’s about the personal experience, I think, so the only way for me to understand it fully is to be over there and to compete. Whichever club that is, I think it’s going to be the experience of a lifetime, but I have aspirations to play at the highest level, to play Champions League football. I think that’s as simple as it is.

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“Ultimately, a ball-playing league is a league that I want to be part of. I think that, again, that’s where you’re going to be tested and I can’t say what the future holds right now, but ultimately I do see myself playing against, again, these world-class 9s, these world-class 10s, these world-class 7s and 11s who are going to put me under pressure, both defensively and with the ball.

“But having the capabilities to know that I can play and compete against them is something I’m looking forward to and it’s something that is pushing me day in and day out.”

 

McKenzie’s comments may worry Celtic fans

McKenzie’s comments here are a concern for those who want him at Parkhead in January or indeed next summer.

His desire to go straight to the top sounds like a move he plans on making directly. MLS pundit Davies’ encouragement for him not to move to Scotland doesn’t help either.

If anything is a message to the club about how important Champions League football is, then this is it here from McKenzie. Players from the USA, or indeed anywhere, will always be more attracted to teams who are competing at the top level of the European game.

Mark McKenzie in action

Mark McKenzie in action (Photo by Ira L. Black – Corbis/Getty Images)

McKenzie’s hopes of playing in a ball-playing league also don’t sound too optimistic from our perspective. Whilst Celtic always encourage their players to play out from the back, it certainly isn’t a philosophy adopted across the entire division. Outside of Celtic and Rangers, there remains plenty of long-ball teams in the Premiership, and that doesn’t sound like something that the USA international is interested in.

Not that Celtic wouldn’t be good for his development. We’re a club that’s proven itself to be a fine place for young talent to hone their skills before moving onto bigger things. Ask Virgil Van Dijk and Moussa Dembele. It’s a proven formula for success if you can prove that you’re good enough.

But this looks like one where the perception of Scottish football could halt us from bagging our man. Hopefully, that doesn’t prove to be the case.

In other news, we explain why Neil Lennon can’t use the absentees as an excuse for yesterday.

 

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