When Celtic-linked David Webb tried to sign a Hoops fan-favourite

By Euan Davidson

February 18, 2021

With speculation mounting about Celtic and David Webb, it’s natural to read some history.

Webb, who spoke exclusively to Hamish Carton for 67 Hail Hail yesterday, worked under Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs as Head of Elite Potential Identification. Looking back through his recent career, it turns out he was keen on a few names who turned into stars.

Sadio Mané and Timo Werner for example [FourFourTwo]. Not bad, not bad at all.

However, from a Celtic point of view, it’s interesting to note that Webb tried to sign former Celtic hero Moussa Dembélé. The French striker was impressing at Fulham, before Brendan Rodgers swooped for the striker in 2016 [Daily Record].

In 2017, Webb told Sky Sports:

“The coaching hours he would have received while at Paris St Germain’s illustrious academy would have given him a sound base to build from. And his repeated learning patterns would have played a prominent role in his development to where he is now.

“Of course, he was still raw and the technical side of things is still developing with him. However, he was quite sophisticated in the way that he played, particularly in regard to the cuteness of his movements off the ball and the goalscoring positions he kept getting into.

“This showed to me his game intelligence and a complete understanding of his functionality for his team’s style of play. He is a lot cleverer than people gave him credit for.”

Moussa busts a move. / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Moussa Dembélé at Celtic

Needless to say, Dembélé was a success at Celtic. He made his mark with a winning penalty against Astana [BBC] in August 2016, before the “Dembelition” against Rangers one month later [The Guardian].

Dembélé, who now plays for La Liga leaders Atlético Madrid, ended up scoring 51 goals in 94 games for Celtic [Transfermarkt]. A mere two years on from his arrival in Glasgow, he cost Olympique Lyonnais nearly £20m [BBC]. Having impressed domestically and in the Champions League, it seemed inevitable that the French striker would leave Celtic for big money.

His is an example of smart recruitment, and in hindsight, his signature was even more a coup than we thought.

Agile: Moussa Dembélé / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Encouraging sign for potential of Celtic and David Webb partnership

It’s hard not to read or listen to David Webb without a degree of excitement. While nothing has been agreed yet, it seems sensible to assume that incoming CEO Dominic McKay will want to build a modern structure. That’ll include a conduit between the manager and the board. A figure who can influence a club’s culture and have everyone on the same page.

Last year, he explained his work with Tottenham to the Daily Mail.

Webb said:

“It’s about a blend and everybody has to be on board.

“You’ve got to combine the stats with human character traits, backgrounds, cultural and social understanding. The scouts need to be kept fully involved in that process. Don’t become consumed by stats.

“Tottenham liked the work I’d done on psychological profiling of players for Bayer Leverkusen. Because when you’re looking to pay X amount for a player, you have to understand what you’re bringing them from, their background.”

Given his history of spotting elite talent, he’s an incredibly strong candidate for a role within a restructured Celtic. From a recruitment perspective, the Bhoys have had incredibly mixed results. For example, in January 2020, Ismaila Soro and Patryk Klimala were signed; the former has been an unqualified success, the latter not so much.

Of course, there’s an element of risk involved but to know that Webb was on the same page as Rodgers regarding Dembélé is a good sign. Top scouts were keen on the French striker’s power, finishing and movement, while at Celtic, he added to his all-round game and became a fan favourite.

READ MORE: A supporter’s squad review – who stays and who goes?