When we talk about a Director of Football for Celtic, do we know what we mean?
Some background: for so long, it looked like “transfer guru” Fergal Harkin, of Manchester City, was the man for the job. Today, as it turns out, he might not be. In reporting by the Daily Record, Harkin was dismissed in the same breath as the one used to tout Shaun Maloney [Daily Record].
Long-term readers of this website may remember the case being made for Shaun Maloney being the next Celtic boss. Maybe it was premature, but he remains a relatively popular name in Glasgow, and his buccaneering style with Roberto Martinez at Belgium is clearly working. With an embarrassment of riches, Maloney has helped to turn a team of talented individuals into a cohesive attacking unit.
So, again: what do we mean when we talk about a Director of Football? Is it just someone who pushes pens and identifies transfer targets? Or, is a Director the person who delegates all the scouting, negotiates transfers and takes all the credit? Neither are entirely true.
No, more than that, a Director of Football does just that: directs the footballing ethics and ideology of a team. It’s about more than personnel; it’s about an all-encompassing vision of how football should be played, how a uniform style can be adopted across squads, and picking out the right people to carry that vision out in reality.
If you’re looking for a footballing aesthete who has fantastic contacts around Europe, Shaun Maloney is yer man.
Shaun Maloney could be exactly the Director of Football that Celtic need
If you don’t know Maloney’s credentials by now, then fair enough. These are the kinds of annoying things that your nephew who plays Football Manager knows about. But here’s the general jist: he worked alongside Tommy McIntyre at Academy level, then he became a coach for Roberto Martinez at Belgium. He’s also got a degree from the Johan Cruijff Institute in (where else?) Amsterdam.
That’s all fine and well, but of course, he’s untested as a Director of any kind. Still just 38, the Malaysian born ex-Celtic attacker has only really had two jobs in coaching. But if they’re jobs of that calibre, you’d expect that his knowledge of the game must be second-to-none. Roberto Martinez claims that Maloney has an “elite brain” [BBC], which sounds a little Phrenological, but is presumably a huge compliment.
While he doesn’t have much experience, what experience he has sets him apart. And it’s not like Celtic are discerning in their choices for roles of this nature. There hasn’t been a Director of Football at Celtic since Kenny Dalglish. For the current board, this is new territory, and someone who can inform the next Bhoys boss of what’s expected at the club could be a huge boost.
Maloney takes inspiration from the great Barcelona sides of Guardiola and Cruijff, as well as the Lisbon Lions. Absolutely an attack-minded coach, Maloney has spoken on Sportscene about his favour for high-energy, high-pressing football. It’s the kind of thing Celtic fans have expected throughout the club’s history, and he’s a big proponent of it.
We talk about “Celtic men” being an issue at the club. Reliance on old favourites getting by on their past glories. Maloney’s story, though, is different. The way he talks about the game, the style he’s worked on with Roberto Martinez and his passion for Celtic make him a very interesting candidate for any role at the club.
Obvious issues, however
There are caveats. While the Director of Football job isn’t exclusively about recruitment, there is a large transfer component. The fact that Shaun Maloney wouldn’t be available until late July is hardly a help when such extensive rebuilding needs done ASAP.
As my colleague David Walton states:
“Even if Maloney is going to be tackling recruitment, and there’s no confirmation of that yet, work needs to start long before he makes his decision.”
That’s entirely true, and again, we’re not even sure what kind of role Shaun Maloney is being approached for, if indeed, Celtic have made their interest known to the former Scotland international. But you’d have to imagine his “elite” brain will be a desired resource for a club that wants to modernise its footballing approach.