The big winners from Celtic's pre-season; 3 more left with uncertain futures

By Dave Flanigan

July 24, 2022

Celtic rounded off their pre-season yesterday with a comfortable 2-0 win over Championship side Norwich City in Paradise.

It marked the end of a highly competitive set of friendlies, allowing manager Ange Postecoglou ample opportunity to assess his squad ahead of the new season.

Here are the players who impressed, and those who really could have done with doing so but failed to, ahead of the Premiership curtain-raiser against Aberdeen next Sunday:

Photo by PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

The Winners

Reo Hatate

Undoubtedly the star of the pre-season despite missing two games, the Japan international has almost certainly nailed down his place alongside Callum McGregor in Celtic’s midfield. The 24 year old’s quality has been plain for all to see since his January move from Kawasaki Frontale, despite fatigue clearly setting in towards the end of last season. Expect Reo to be one of the stars of the show when the proper stuff kicks off next week.

Daizen Maeda

Another who probably wasn’t reliant on a strong pre-season in order to play next season, Maeda has offered a strong reminder of his qualities to all in the last month of friendlies. With his boundless stamina and truly elite pressing capabilities well established, the Japan international has also finished well when called upon, scoring a spectacular flick in yesterday’s victory over the Canaries, and will almost certainly be Celtic’s first choice on the left in the early season.

David Turnbull

One whose place was in the team was under threat following the emergence of Matt O’Riley, Turnbull likely needed a strong showing this close season and he gave one. Scoring in three games and showing noticeable improvements on his 2021-22 performances, the Scotland international looks to have put his injury from the League Cup Final win behind him, and now gives his manager a welcome selection headache in a stacked centre of midfield, with Matt O’Riley also impressing.

On The Outside

James McCarthy

With Yosuke Ideguchi returning from injury and the signing of Aaron Mooy, McCarthy really could have done with offering some sort of seed of doubt about his Celtic future to his manager. An awkward fit from the very beginning, the former Ireland international’s future at Celtic now looks even bleaker after a series of anaemic performances this pre-season, with little scope for minutes barring an injury crisis in central midfield. McCarthy’s long contract looks to be the only thing keeping him at the club at this point.

Christopher Jullien

The Frenchman’s Celtic career is in an odd place following his broken down move to Schalke. Although he’s been far from disastrous in this pre-season, he looks to have slipped below Stephen Welsh in the pecking order in the centre of defence with competition for places further exacerbated by the signing of Mortiz Jenz. A move might be best for all parties at this point, with Jullien now at an age where regular football should be a priority.

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Albian Ajeti

The former Switzerland international barely kicked a ball in this close season, looking far outside the manager’s plans. With Kyogo Furuhashi and Georgios Giakoumakis ahead of him in the pecking order, and Daizen Maeda an able deputy in their absence, it would be highly surprising were the 25 year old to still be at the club come the closure of the transfer window next month.

In other news: Scott Brown comes out on top vs former Celtic teammates in Saturday clash.