A long-term injury to Celtic star Jozo Simunovic has put the need to sign a central defender in the January transfer window into sharp focus.

Manager Neil Lennon has confirmed he is set to be missing for three to four months, meaning he could struggle to be at peak match fitness for the second half of the season.

Although we have cover in the position, there are no guarantees when it comes to Simunovic’s knee problems and his ability to recover from recent surgery.

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When you consider the options we had in the position last season, we are still essentially a man down. That’s especially true when you consider our specialist players in the position.

Nir Bitton and Hatem Abd Elhamed have proved competent, but the former has been a midfield for the vast majority of his career and the latter was signed as a right-back.

It could be tricky to sign a quality player mid-season, but there is one man we know can do a job in Scottish football – £9.9m-rated Filip Benkovic (Transfermarkt).

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(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Leicester struggles

Benkovic hasn’t played a single competitive match at senior club level since leaving Celtic at the end of last season.

Despite being included in Brendan Rodgers’ pre-season plans, the Croatian cap just can’t seem to convince the former Hoops boss he is worth playing. He isn’t even being named on the bench.

That’s not just in the Premier League either, but in the English League Cup against lower league opposition.

Right now he seems a distance away from getting the football he needs to develop further.

Rodgers’ admission

The Foxes boss was asked about Benkovic’s status prior to the weekend’s clash against Newcastle United.

 

He admitted that Benkovic is not injured, but has players ahead of him in the pecking order, not really giving any indication when the player will come into his plans.

As quoted by The Leicester Mercury, he said: “He is available.

“Thankfully he played 90 minutes for the Under-23 team against Scunthorpe. That was good because he hasn’t played a full 90-minute game since he played for Celtic against Hamilton, going back a number of months now. So he’s building up fitness.

“But he’s also got players in front of him. It’s as simple as that. He’s working very hard, he’s very much a part of our squad but there are players in front of him at this moment in time.”

As we know from his time at Celtic, Rodgers can keep players on the fringes for quite a while without really giving them opportunities. He has his tried and trusted players and mostly sticks to them.

The defensive prospect could be waiting a while to make his next Leicester appearance.

(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

An option to explore for Celtic?

With Benkovic clearly not making an impact at Leicester, it surely leaves open the option to make another loan move for him when the January transfer window opens.

He was a solid performer for us last season, making 27 appearances in all competitions. At one point he was first-choice ahead of both Kristoffer Ajer and the injured Simunovic.

On a short-term basis he’d be a great hand to bring in and bolster our options for what will hopefully be a very busy second half of the season. We could be on the trophy hunt, needing quality and depth to get us over the finishing line in multiple competitions.

If I was a professional footballer, I’d be craving a return to a club where I was valued, rather than being reduced to reserve football in England.

Benkovic seemed to enjoy his time in Scotland. It’s time to explore the opportunity and potentially send him a lifeboat.

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