With January just around the corner, Celtic have decisions to make.
Not only will the likes of Hatem Elhamed need to be moved on, but there are contracts expiring in the summer which the club will need to look at.
Similarly, three key players have joined Celtic on loan, and the board will have to make a decision on whether or not to make permanent offers.
Let’s have a look at 6 players who could either stay with the Bhoys, or make big calls about their future.
It’s hard to envision a future without Scott Brown, in many ways. A captain and icon at the club, Brown has been a mainstay since joining from Hibs in 2007.
Broony has outlasted Gordon Strachan, Tony Mowbray, Ronny Deila and Brendan Rodgers while playing for the Bhoys, and his influence under each has been immense.
Although his determination, tidy passing and leadership have been vital, particularly over the the last few seasons, our captain’s future is in doubt at Celtic. He’s still not signed a deal past the summer, during which time he’ll turn 36.
According to my own calculations, Scott Brown has averaged 2,311 minutes per season in the league. That’s a hell of a lot of minutes to replace, but with the likes of Turnbull, Soro and Henderson waiting in the wings, the future looks secure.
Still, it would represent a massive shock should Celtic not offer Scott Brown some kind of extension. With a likely future in coaching, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see our captain take up a Reserves or Academy role as his playing time is decreased.
Barring a big payday elsewhere – Brown turned down a move to Australia in 2019 – Broony should be at Celtic for the foreseeable.
The future of starlet Karamoko Dembélé looked so secure only last year. Touted for a big role within the Celtic first-team, an impressive cameo against Hearts (Daily Record) tantalised the Celtic faithful.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to have progressed a great deal this year. There’s significant talk regarding Dembélé which indicates a lack of effort in training. Given Celtic’s recent injury woes on the wings, you might’ve thought wee Karamoko would have been given opportunities.
Instead, we’ve seen the likes of Cameron Harper make the bench. Our most-hyped youngster in years has seen his star fall. It’s a genuine shame.
We’ve little doubt that Dembélé can turn his career around, but it mightn’t be at Celtic. His contract runs out this summer, and there’ll be a queue of teams lining up to hope he can fulfil his potential.
What a difference one month makes. Before December 2020, we might not have been entirely fussed about the future of Northern Ireland international Conor Hazard.
Obviously, goalkeepers take longer to develop. At 22, Hazard has at least 15 more years of his career left, barring any misfortune. Still, if we’d have let Conor Hazard go, there would’ve been mild disappointment. Now, it’d be a full-on outcry.
Utilised over the last two games during a goalkeeping confidence crisis in the first team, Hazard has looked assured. His experience training with the Celtic team, as well as loan spells at Dundee, have galvanised his chances of staying in and around the first-team for years to come.
Provided, that is, Celtic extend his contract.
Tested in the Scottish game, Hazard’s aforementioned East Coast sojourn saw him keep 6 clean sheets in 11 games (Transfermarkt). Having joined Celtic in 2015, Hazard understands the club inside out, and if he can make good on his potential, there’s a cheap and high quality option for Celtic between the sticks.
Again, what a difference one month makes. If you asked any Celtic fan in November what they thought of Shane Duffy, they’d tell you something I couldn’t repeat here. Two solid games later and the Irishman has become one of the first names on the team-sheet.
Ahead of the Scottish Cup Final on Sunday 19th December, Shane Duffy has gone from a target of ire to a must-start. Working alongside Christopher Jullien and Kristoffer Ajer, the trio seem to have got the knack of playing in a three together.
That said, it doesn’t look likely that Celtic will want to keep him long-term. Unless, that is, he really stands out during the rest of the season. Transfermarkt values the Ireland captain at £8.55m. Given the amount of business Celtic need to do long-term in a variety of positions, a bid of £8m or more seems unlikely.
Elyounoussi’s inability to hold down a place at Southampton is mystifying. He’s been vital in a number of games for Celtic, during last year’s loan spell and in 20-21.
The Norwegian international is an impactful, creative player. His finishing is absolutely divine (BT Sport/YouTube).
He’s contributed to 17 goals in 23 games so far this season. When he’s fit, he’s expected to make a difference. Valued at exactly the same price as Shane Duffy, it seems far-fetched to imagine Celtic will be able to hold onto the midfielder permanently.
His contract on the South coast finishes in 2023. You’d imagine Southampton might look to either give him another chance at Premier League football, or move him on for close to what they paid.
A.C. Milan’s willingness to part with Uruguayan left-back Diego Laxalt was confusing. Celtic fans won’t complain, though.
On loan for 20-21, the dreadlocked South American has helped Celtic temporarily fix a problem area. Greg Taylor hasn’t won over the majority of Celtic fans. Bolingoli could be good in spells, but then he went and spoiled it all (The Guardian).
In my view, there’s little-to-no chance of Laxalt staying beyond the summer. He’s a Serie A quality player, and should he move on permanently, he’ll be fielding plenty of offers.
If you ask me, we haven’t properly replaced Kieran Tierney since his move to Arsenal. Unless Neil Lennon (or someone else) can develop Greg Taylor’s attacking abilities and overall positioning, it’s an area of the pitch that will require investment over the summer.