Celtic manager Neil Lennon’s press conference may have been over 13 minutes yesterday, but it took him almost the full 13 for him to make his most important remark.
Lennon was asked by a journalist whether there comes a point in the transfer window when it’s too late to do deals for your top stars. The manager nodded along knowingly as the question was asked. His answer, posted by Celtic TV, was the following:
“Absolutely 100% right, and that’s why we’re very very strong on not selling any of our players now.”
It may only have been 18 words long but it was one massive statement into the bargain. What the manager has done here is put the board into a position where selling one of our top players now is detrimental for the club.
Usually if a top player leaves a club, the fans are consoled with the idea that it was in the best interests of the club. That the money gained from the sale is much more valuable to the club all-round than keeping the player would’ve been.
With one simple answer, Lennon has booted out any opportunity for that to be spun should we sell someone before the window is through.
Lennon admits players leaving now doesn’t help
Now, say the board turn around and sell Edouard for £35million this summer. You won’t find anyone who would disagree that the fee is far too big to reject.
However, it’s because of the late timing of the deal that would make it detrimental to Celtic as a club. A football institution, after all, is defined by its success on the pitch, not on the balance sheets. If we lose 10-in-a-row after selling Edouard, we’re hardly going to have a bus-parade around Glasgow with the club’s bank statements.
Should Celtic sell a top player, they won’t just have supporters who disagree with the sale now, they’ll have a manager who’s openly admitted that it’s too late to sell. Disagreements between the board and the manager are never a great look, but that’s what will be public knowledge if an Edouard, Kris Ajer, or Ryan Christie leaves.
The truth is, had we wanted to do a big-money sale, it had to be before now. It had to be over the course of August at the latest. We’re now only five days away from the transfer window closing.
But the board’s time to do a deal is up. If they allow a key player to head out of Glasgow, it creates a bad, bad look for the club. And on the year of 10-in-a-row, nobody wants a PR nightmare so early into the season.
Lennon made a very important move yesterday.