Signing players on a free transfer, or pre-contract agreement, are often hit-and-miss affairs. There is no guarantee that the player is going to be a success, but on the plus side if the player does well they can be moved on for big money in the future.
We are going to look at some of Celtic’s best free transfers in recent times, which also includes signing players on a pre-contract agree, as when they sign for the club, they don’t usually cost any money. Chronologically, we are going to use from Neil Lennon’s first spell in charge of Celtic, so 210 onwards.
First, a few honourable mentions. Joe Ledley was a bit of a shock signing in 2010. The Hoops signed the player from Cardiff City, beating the likes of Stoke, West Brom and Roma to his signature.
Ledley was a mainstay of Neil Lennon’s midfield, and came up with some big goals, including a winner against Rangers in December 2011 which took the Hoops to the top of the league table. He stayed at Celtic until January 2014, winning two titles before moving to Crystal Palace.
Added a wealth of experience
Kolo Toure arrived at Celtic not long after Brendan Rodgers took charge, and added a wealth of experience to the side. He was a more than useful addition to the squad which has now become legendary as the ‘invincibles’ that went an entire league season unbeaten.
Toure retired at the end of that season, and joined Celtic’s coaching stuff, before leaving the Hoops to join Leicester City along with Rodgers. That ending leaves a sour taste, but Toure did well for the Hoops.
Scott Bain joined the Hoops after leaving Dundee in January 2018, and it has to be said that he has had a very successful career with the Hoops so far. He has won every domestic trophy going, and is at the moment Celtic’s first choice goalkeeper. Not bad going for a player who fell out with Neil McCann.
Onto another goalkeeper, Craig Gordon. He had an incredibly successful time with the club, especially when you consider that he was out of the game for two years before joining the Hoops in 2014.
In his time with Celtic Gordon resurrected his career, winning 13 trophies in that time. He eventually left the Hoops in the summer when his contract expired, and is now back at Hearts.
Only one real option
However, for the best free contract signing of recent years, there is only one real option – Mikael Lustig. He agreed a pre-contract with the Hoops in December 2011, and joined properly from Rosenberg in January 2012.
What a career he had at Celtic. Winning 16 trophies, including eight titles in a row. Playing in the win over Barcelona. Scoring a memorable goal at Ibrox to clinch a 5-1 victory. Wearing a policeman’s hat on the pitch. Those are some of the things he will be remembered for.
However, when it comes down to it, he was a highly dependable right-back for Celtic for years. He might have struggled at times in his last few seasons. However, he still ended those as a domestic treble winner. Probably the only pity is that he left Celtic to join Genk after eight in a row, and he wasn’t at the club to see nine in a row clinched.
You have to imagine though, that should the Hoops win 10 in a row then Lustig will be back at Celtic Park, hopefully with fans in attendance, joining in the celebrations. It is the least that the player deserves.