Report: James McCarthy to become free agent after long-term Celtic links

By David Walton

May 18, 2021

Long-term Celtic-linked James McCarthy will leave Crystal Palace this summer, according to The Athletic.

McCarthy has been with Palace since 2019, and has been in English football since he signed for Wigan from Hamilton back in 2009.

Since then, he’s been consistently linked with a potential move to Celtic. The Hoops decided not to snap him up from Accies when Tony Mowbray became manager – just one of a host of blunders we’ve made transfer-wise over the years. He’s also, of course, a long-time Celtic supporter [Daily Record].

However, Celtic reportedly held talks with McCarthy as recently as January [TEAMtalk]. The report claims that Celtic were close to coming to an agreement with the midfielder, but the deal failed to get over the line.

TEAMtalk reports that Celtic won’t be making any decisions until they bag a new manager. However, it’s difficult not to be intrigued by McCarthy given there’ll be no transfer fees involved.

James McCarthy to Celtic wouldn’t be a surprise; still has some years left in the tank

The main obstacle in bringing McCarthy back to Scotland would simply be his wage demands. According to Spotrac, McCarthy earns as much as £50k-per-week with Palace. Celtic couldn’t rival that, meaning it would be down to the player’s own ambitions. For example, does McCarthy view medals as more important now than money?

Let’s not pretend he wouldn’t add something. No, he hasn’t come off the best season with Palace. He’s made 15 appearances for the Premier League club this season and doesn’t have a goal or an assist to his name [Transfermarkt]. But it’s not as if injury problems have plagued him. It’s simply been down to not being selected by Roy Hodgson.

He likely wouldn’t have that problem for Celtic. At the very least, he would provide a vastly experienced head in our squad. Celtic badly lack experience and leadership heading into the new campaign. Bringing in a man with 42 international caps to his name would help sort that out.

Crystal Palace’s James McCarthy / (Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

Of course, there is another problem. Celtic don’t necessarily need midfield reinforcements. Yes, Scott Brown has left us for Aberdeen and that leaves a gap that needs to be filled. But Ismaila Soro is surely best placed to be the player who replaces him.

If Celtic were to sell on the likes of Olivier Ntcham and continue to ignore the development squad’s promising midfield talents, then it would certainly be worth considering. There are plenty of pros and cons regarding the potential signing of McCarthy.

However, this could be his last chance to play for Celtic if the new manager wants him. It wouldn’t be too surprising to see him in green-and-white next season.

In other news, an agent has discussed his previous contact with Nick Hammond as he prepares to talk to the club again this summer.