The Northern Echo have reported that Celtic are still in the hunt for Filip Benkovic, and that we’re one of four clubs still interested.
The Echo states that Middlesbrough, Derby County, and Bristol City are all in the running for him. Fortunately, however, Middlesbrough appear to be making a push to sign Ben Gibson instead.
This all comes after the Daily Mail had reported earlier this week that Middlesbrough were initially at the front of the pack for Benkovic. The idea was that he would sign for the Championship side so long as Leicester signed a new defender.
The Foxes still haven’t managed to secure that centre-back. It’ll be interesting to see whether that changes the dynamic regarding Benkovic, who has made eight appearances for Croatia’s under-21 side (Transfermarkt).
Neil Lennon commented on the speculation as recently as Friday too. He stated that he believed Celtic were already well-stocked in that area (Celtic TV).
Last night was another sign of why we need a centre-back
Typically, Jozo Simunovic could only last 45 minutes last night before having to come off for Moritz Bauer. The mere fact that Bauer had to come on shows just how lacking in depth we are in the centre of defence.
If we had Benkovic in there, at least until the end of the season, it would boost our strength in that area tenfold. It would give us the security we need, and it wouldn’t have us relying on a player who’s missed the majority of the season through injury so far.
In truth, we really should’ve pushed the boat out to try and get another defender earlier this month. It’s not ideal to be loaning players for the short-term. In an ideal world, another permanent one would’ve come in, and it’s frustrating to see us waiting so late in the window to secure one.
This has to be the priority tomorrow. If it’s not Benkovic then it has to be an alternative. Celtic are fine in all other positions with the exception of perhaps right-mid. However, if we simply brought another centre-back in, it would mark a productive window for us.
It’s really all about how much faith Lennon wants to put in the players currently here. Sure, Nir Bitton will return eventually, but even when he does, we’re only one injury away from another scare. Bitton and Simunovic should be worst-case options at this point, not first-team regulars.
This is the main deal I’ll be having my eye on tomorrow. If there’s a realistic chance of any reported signing getting over the line, it feels like Benkovic is the one. Can we pull it off? That depends on our approach.