3 centre-backs on expiring deals that could bolster Celtic defence
While Celtic have boosted their numbers with quality in different areas, there’s still a case to be made for another centre-back, and there are several on expiring deals with real quality.
Although the Hoops are hoping to land Cameron Carter-Vickers permanently, there are issues. Carl Starfelt has largely been solid, but has mistakes in him. Stephen Welsh has excellent potential, but isn’t a guaranteed starter just yet.
And we don’t know what kind of form Christopher Jullien can maintain after such a serious injury set-back.
No wonder, then, that John Souttar of Hearts has been linked over recent months [Sun]. But in the event Celtic don’t get him – and it doesn’t look particularly promising – there are always options.
In 2022, countless contracts are expiring. Some of the biggest business will be done without transfer fees changing hands. So who can Celtic look at in the centre-back market to add some real guile and calm to the Hoops defence?
Here are a few who could be possibilities for Ange Postecoglou in the Celtic defence, if this is the route he wants to take.
Fabian Schär; an ambitious shout, but Celtic could be clever
With just 6 months on his deal at Newcastle United, Fabian Schär is in an interesting position.
The Swiss international has 69 caps to his name, but his season at Newcastle United hasn’t been brilliant. Steve Bruce didn’t seem to fancy the centre-back all that much, but Eddie Howe has featured him in recent matches since taking over at St James’ Park.
Still, Newcastle United have enormous wealth at their disposal. And with Schär’s contract coming to an end, will the Magpies stick with a fringe player, or invest heavily in their defence before long? The answer seems obvious.
At 30, Schär could provide real knowhow and experience for Ange Postecoglou, were the Celtic boss interested. Throughout his career, he’s been a solid passer of the ball from the back [WhoScored?], and has plenty of big-game experience with Switzerland.
In 18-19, his best season for Newcastle statistically speaking, he averaged 2.5 tackles, 2.8 interceptions and 5.7 clearances, while taking on 1.1 dribbles to get the ball out of defence. That’s not bad at all, and would translate well into Celtic’s game.
His wages could be a stumbling block. But were he to be convinced of what Ange is building at Celtic, the lack of a transfer fee could offset his earnings to some degree.
Marvin Friedrich; Celtic fans, don’t be put off by his name or where he plays…
Yes! A German centre-back called Marvin.
But look; this guy’s a bit different. Playing for Union Berlin, one of the feel-good stories of European football, Marvin Friedrich is a very capable player with a lot about him at either end of the pitch.
A former Schalke youth academy prospect, Friedrich has shone for an impressive Union Berlin side. The ex-Germany youth international was integral to both Union’s promotion, and their subsequent first season in the Bundesliga, playing 34 league games both seasons.
At 26, he’s still got his peak years left. And interestingly, he offers more in an attacking sense to most centre-backs in the Bundesliga. According to FBRef, he’s amongst the top percentiles for progressive passes, expected assists and touches in the opposition box.
He’s also very decent at pressing, something Ange would like. He attempts 12.3 pressures per 90, showing real ambition to get further forward and win the ball high-up.
He seems a realistic target, and someone who’s fine-tuned to a style that would absolutely chime with what Celtic are doing. Available for free in the summer, he could be a real gem.
Marc Oliver Kempf; another of the Bundesliga star centre-backs Celtic could look at for defence
Germany has plenty of great defenders. I’m not sure if that’s going into some kind of footballing stereotype, but it’s true.
There are countless German centre-backs who would get caps for most other countries. However, when you’re blessed with the talent the Mannschaft have available, these things happen. It’s a little like Scotland at left-back…
Anyway; Marc Oliver Kempf is another central defender who’s mastered both the 2. Bundesliga and the top-flight. At Stuttgart, Kempf has been ever-present, playing 96 times since joining in 2018 [Transfermarkt]. This season, he’s even got 3 goals to his name; not bad at all.
What are his qualities? Aerial duels and interceptions. At 6.1, he’s got decent standing height and decent leap to him, which helps a great deal. This season, he’s winning 2.4 aerial duels a game [WhoScored?]. He’s in the 92nd percentile of centre-backs monitored by FBRef for aerial duels over the last year.
He has other, considerable attributes that are perfect for Celtic. In terms of moving the ball, he’s in the 97th percentile for progressive passes for last year, making 5.29 a game. He’s capable of making an impact with shot creating actions, i.e. passing or moving into dangerous areas, and he’s more than handy blocking shots, winning the ball from dribbling attackers, and reading the game [FBRef].
Stuttgart may have to part with Kempf, though, and Celtic should be keeping tabs. At 26, he’s got a lot to offer, and is about to reach his peak years.