When Celtic dip into a market, they tend to do it enthusiastically.
Examples: when Shunsuke Nakamura was at his imperious best for the Bhoys, Celtic also signed Koki Mizuno, Du Wei and Zheng Zhi. There was a real feeling that the East Asian market was an untapped well of talent. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out for the latter pair of Chinese internationals. Similarly, Japanese winger Mizuno only featured 11 times for the Bhoys.
Similarly, over recent seasons, Celtic have made a splash in the North American market. In early 2019, Andrew Gutman and Manny Perez signed three-and-a-half year deals. Cameron Harper, discovered by Tommy Burns’ son no less, also joined the club’s Academy.
While Harper actually featured competitively for Celtic, now all three are gone. They’ve returned to the MLS, having barely made a mark in Glasgow. Now, we have to ask: was there ever a plan with these guys?
Gutman and Perez, while Celtic outcasts, are clearly good enough to have signed for MLS clubs. The league isn’t the retirement home it used to be, and there’s real talent coming out of North America. Both Canada and the United States have a raft of quality players now featuring for big European clubs. A joke, it is not.
Yet, there were issues with work permits, and the club never seemed completely invested, either. Brendan Rodgers left the month after they were signed. So, who was in charge of signing them, and was it just a stunt?
Celtic have immense popularity in North America, after all
One of the biggest sporting ‘franchises’ in the US is the Boston Celtics. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that there’s a considerable Irish-Scottish diaspora in North America who love sport of all kinds. There are well-organised, passionate CSCs across the continent [NAFCSC]. Equally, in Mexico, Celtic have an official partnership with Santos Laguna [Celtic FC].
So it’d be an utter gift to have a “baller” from North/Latin America in the Celtic team. There have been attempts, from Gil Heron in the early 50s to Dominic Cervi [Transfermarkt]. Yet, there haven’t ever really been any Canadian, American or Mexican stand-outs for the Bhoys. Not, at least, in the long term.
So, it makes sense that Celtic would try to capitalise on the club’s popularity from a recruitment perspective, but it feels half-hearted. There must’ve been some awareness that it’d be a struggle for either Perez or Gutman to get into the Celtic first-team, and it was a low-cost gamble for the club.
However, these are players’ careers. The professional lifespan of a footballer is short. If Celtic want to tap into the North American market again, it surely has to be for a player with a real chance of first-team football.
No doubt, there are millions over there who would love to see one of their talents prosper in the Green and White. If it’s to be done, it has to be done right.