Priority talks with Olivier Ntcham bust be on Celtic manager's to-do list

By David Walton

June 19, 2019

Olivier Ntcham’s Celtic future looks uncertain if you’re being kind to him.

Recently, the Scottish Sun has claimed that Lyon, Marseille, and Porto were all monitoring the Frenchman, rated at £12million. That’s some real heavy-hitters, and you could argue all three would be a step-up in quality for Ntcham too given the opposition they face.

But the reason for his departure wouldn’t be the way Celtic envisioned when he first signed. After an outstanding first campaign two years ago, Ntcham was in and out of the side last season. Injury halted him for several months, of course, but when he did play he lacked the same drive, flair, and consistency he had the year previous. It’s highlighted in the fact that Neil Lennon only started him four times out of a possible 10.

It wasn’t a vintage year for Olivier Ntcham (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

This has led to a serious debate over the midfielder’s attitude. Some believe he doesn’t care enough about Celtic. Some others believe he hasn’t been the same since his mate Moussa Dembele left. Others believe the situation can be resolved. And that would certainly be worth investigating from a Celtic perspective.

Ntcham had a poor year, yes. He isn’t the first and won’t be the last. Whether that was down to a lack of confidence or a lack of a positive attitude isn’t clear to anyone other than himself.

But he’s still immensely rated outside of Parkhead too. The midfielder came on for half an hour against England under-21s for France in the Under-21 European Championships last night. He put in a decent performance, and made it his goal to try and stretch England by spreading the ball around.

His substitution also coincided with France turning the game around. If anything, that will only help increase Ntcham’s reputation back home.

Ntcham is no lost cause

Therefore, there’s no way Celtic should look at Ntcham as some sort of lost cause. Drumming up interest in him is all well and good, but his departure shouldn’t be anywhere near inevitable. He has far too much in his locker to just be tossed to the side after one poor year.

Ntcham’s France under-21 side beat England 2-1 last night (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images)

Scott Sinclair hasn’t been the player we know he can be for about two years now. There’s no talk of a poor attitude there or talk of Celtic trying to move him on. Players have slumps in form, it’s hardly criminal.

So Neil Lennon could do Celtic a real favour and make it a priority to hold talks with Ntcham after the Euros have ended. He needs to get inside the midfielder’s head if he hasn’t already and find out what’s going on there.

Before Celtic make the decision to sell him on, we need to find out if he’s retrievable. After all, he signed a new long-term deal not even a year ago. Celtic have longevity out of him if they can get him back to top form once again.

Will Ntcham be off this summer? (Francois Monier/AFP/Getty Images)

Ntcham’s quality demands an investigation into his mindset. Just selling him on for £12m to the first bidder is always tempting if Celtic can get that kind of money for him. But there’s a reason big clubs are interested in him too. His arsenal can’t be underestimated.

Hopefully, Lennon can have a chat with Ntcham and get to the bottom of whatever is holding him back. It could be the best bit of work Lennon does before the new season begins.