3 defensive targets Celtic could look to in January transfer window

By Euan Davidson

November 26, 2021

It was defensive frailty that put paid to any Celtic ambitions of Europa League qualification last night, and January will be an interesting month.

Without the talents of Carl Starfelt and Christopher Jullien to rely upon, young Stephen Welsh was entrusted with keeping two significant talents at bay. Florian Wirtz, who will surely generate serious money for Leverkusen, and French U21 international Amine Adli.

Good as Welsh can be – and he didn’t disgrace himself last night – the Celtic defence lack calm at vital moments. When one of the centre-backs misses games, as Carter-Vickers will against Betis, the pool of realistic first-team talent is shallow.

Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images

Beyond Welsh, there’s Dane Murray, who plays with the B Team, and Osaze Urhoghide, who hasn’t had a chance yet.

Surely then, Celtic could use some reinforcement in January. So we’ve scoured the European leagues to pick out centre-back options who could bolster the ranks at Paradise.

Who did we find? Read on…

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Tuta; Eintracht Frankfurt’s Brazilian defender who could immediately improve Celtic in January

Bought for peanuts from the Sao Paolo academy, Tuta was another shrewd investment from a club known for recruiting well.

Brazilian defender Tuta, or Lucas Silva Melo as his parents call him, really came to the fore during a loan spell with KV Kortrijk. In his first taste of European football, Tuta made 14 appearances in the fashionable Jupiler Pro League, setting him up nicely for a charge on the Frankfurt first-team.

It worked. The Brazilian centre-back 19 Bundesliga appearances in 20-21. Not bad going for the 22-year-old, but the hopes would be for more in 21-22. In a sense, opportunities have come, primarily through the Europa League.

Tuta is one of the top interceptors in the competition. During his 4 appearances, he’s stolen the ball 2.3 times per 90 [WhoScored?]. He’s also good at the uglier stuff, making 2.8 clearances and 0.8 tackles.

He’s also good at winning fouls, with runs into opposition territory. While his passing could be better, he’s still young and could learn quickly if he’s given regular game time.

As it is, he’s only started 42% of the available Bundesliga games thus far [Transfermarkt]. He could be getting impatient.

Photo by MB Media/Getty Images

Alexandre Penetra – the 20-year-old captain Celtic could make significant profit on if they act now

Imagine being 20 and captaining a football club. I once tried, and failed three times, to order the pair of jeans I wanted off the internet when I was 20. Ridiculous.

Anyway, with the exploits of Jota at Celtic, it’s worth looking at talented players who have been hastily discarded by Benfica. Alexandre Penetra falls neatly into that category, but he can play a bit too.

Captain of Portuguese side Famalicao, Penetra is a player clearly beyond his years. Having come through the Benfica academy, the technique isn’t in question. His passing is a little underwhelming at 79%, but he plays 5.1 long balls per game [WhoScored?]. Obviously, he wouldn’t need to do that at Celtic.

What’s most impressive, though, is his reading of the game. He leads the Liga NOS in interceptions with a very handy 3.5 a game. That shows a level of understanding and maturity that you won’t see a lot of elsewhere.

He’s even scored a goal, while being called up for Portugal’s U21 team shows his potential [Record Portugal].

Like Jota, the guy is a rising talent. It may be prudent to act now.

Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images

Anel Ahmedhodzic – the Bosnian international who’s already tipped for big moves

For some, Anel Ahmedhodzic is a name you’ll almost certainly have heard before. That is if you play Football Manager.

The Malmo centre-back is a bargain signing at the start of the last edition of the game, and ends up being excellent. That’s all good fun but he’s also very decent in real life.

Playing in the Champions League with Malmo this season, he’s not had the greatest time of it. But what he’s done internationally is very impressive indeed. With Bosnia-Herzegovina, he’s made 2.6 interceptions per 90 [WhoScored?] at international level. That’s seriously good.

He’s played 82% of the available minutes in the Swedish top-flight this season, and has been linked with a move to Atalanta [Aftonbladet], who are typically very good at identifying young players.

His contract runs out in 2023, meaning if Malmo are to make significant profit, they need to act quickly. Could Celtic pounce for the Bosnian 22-year-old in January?

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