The 3 Celtic players with first-team lifeline after transfer window shuts

By Euan Davidson

September 1, 2021

Undoubtedly, there will be Celtic players breathing a sigh of relief now the transfer window has shut.

As midnight struck, the Hoops could look back on a job (relatively) well done. Some fan favourites, promising young talents and international players with great pedigrees have arrived. Meanwhile, some much-needed departures, as well as some sad losses, were conducted on a whirlwind deadline day.

But what about those who looked on the precipice? Yesterday, a report emerged stating that the Bhoys were looking to gauge interest in Vasilis Barkas, Boli Bolingoli and Albian Ajeti.

Meanwhile, players on the cusp of the first-team could well have sought loan moves. They still might, of course, but it speaks volumes that they’re still training at Lennoxtown.

With Barkas’ role as a back-up goalkeeper pretty much nailed on, let’s look at three first-team players who are set for an interesting six months.

Luca Connell: do Celtic have plans for him after transfer window closure?

The epitome of “too good for the B Team, not quite ready to start”. Luca Connell has been hotly-tipped since his move from Bolton Wanderers. For all he arrived looking capable of denting the first-team, though, it just hasn’t quite happened.

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A loan spell at Queens Park was fruitful, with 4 assists and a goal in 7 outings [Transfermarkt]. Granted, it was at SPFL League Two level, but it was still a sign that we had a promising talent here.

However, he didn’t feature a great deal in pre-season, and doesn’t look as if he’ll be in match-day squads barring an injury crisis or substantially impressing Ange Postecoglou. That puts the Irish youth international in a precarious position.

We doubt Postecoglou wouldn’t keep players he didn’t have plans for. With Celtic opting against signing another central midfielder, Connell surely has to be in the manager’s thoughts.

But to what extent? The next six months will surely prove that. With a small number of midfielders ahead of him in the first-team picture, Connell must surely fancy his chances somewhat.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Albian Ajeti: Celtic’s clear third-choice striker?

You’d have to imagine that with Edouard and Griffiths gone, Albian Ajeti can count himself a little lucky. Signed for £4.5m last summer [BBC], 30 appearances yielded just 6 goals last season.

There’s surely a player there. In pre-season, he showed some real quality. Some of his brief appearances this season have given fans a glimpse of what he can; a burly striker who can bother defenders and win fouls.

However, in terms of the investment made on Ajeti, he hasn’t been the best signing Celtic have made. Now with Kyogo and Giakoumakis ahead of him, it’ll be interesting to see whether Ajeti can really break into the first-team.

Injuries and rotation will dictate that Ajeti has a role to play this season. Can he produce when it counts for Celtic? Will he be a good fit for Postecoglou’s system?

Photo by Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Boli Bolingoli: a surprise name still at Celtic after transfer window closure

Given that he’s third-choice behind Greg Taylor and Adam Montgomery, it’s a huge shock to see Boli Bolingoli is still at Celtic.

No harm to the guy. In his first season, his darting runs (often inside) helped Celtic to create overlaps against weaker opposition. Never the greatest defender, as a wing-back he seemed a relatively decent fit.

Perhaps unfairly seen as a straight swap for a fan hero in Kieran Tierney, he had the dice loaded against him from the start. Nobody was going to live up to KT’s influence, something even Bolingoli himself will have known.

Then, last summer happened. A loan spell in Turkey followed, but no permanent move was forthcoming. He’s still in the squad, and on the face of it, actually looks a decent fit for Postecoglou’s inverted full-backs system.

Except, he’s not getting an opportunity. Postecoglou has no obvious agenda in terms of personnel, so it’s likely that Bolingoli just hasn’t impressed enough in training to make the left-back spot his own.

Could the rigours of domestic and European commitments facilitate a Bolingoli revival? It genuinely seems unlikely, barring a really serious injury crisis.

Yet, it’s hard not to see the transfer window closing as a reprieve of sorts for Bolingoli at Celtic. Never rule out a comeback of sorts, but again – it’s a genuine surprise to still see the Belgian left-back still at the club.

Read more: Lustig, Karamoko and more react to Celtic departure