The true size of Celtic's summer rebuild as things stand

By David Walton

May 6, 2021

So much of the conversation heading into the close-season has been the prospect of Celtic’s summer rebuild.

A host of players look set to leave the club including loanees and those entering the final years of their contract. That, therefore, leads to an understanding of the fact we’re going to need plenty of bodies in the door too.

This is the main reason why Celtic fans have been so infuriated and concerned about the length of time it’s taking to bag a new manager. It’s now been 71 days and still no peep about when we’ll make a permanent appointment.

But here, we take a look at the true size of the rebuild required and how many players Celtic currently need for each position. We’ll also be using our results based on players likely to leave the club this summer. So let’s get cracking!:

New goalkeepers required – 1

Celtic goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Celtic currently have Vasilis Barkas, Scott Bain, and Conor Hazard all contracted to be here next season. However, not one of them has impressed to any great degree when placed in goal.

Bain currently has the number one jersey, but don’t be surprised if he finds his way out of Parkhead this summer. He’s conceded 30 goals in 23 games this season, and the truth is he just doesn’t make enough saves. But that’s not anything we didn’t already know before the campaign begun.

Of course, the biggest disappointment has been Barkas. He was signed for big money last summer and has dropped out of the reckoning. There has also been speculation over his future too [Glasgow Live].

Don’t expect Celtic to let two goalkeepers depart however. It’s more than likely they’ll want one of the three to leave to make way for a new number one. Whether that’s Bain or Barkas remains to be seen, but Connor Hazard has already committed to the club by signing a new contract this year [Sky Sports].

But someone is set to leave, with a big name hopefully replacing him.

New right-backs required – 2

Quite ridiculously, Celtic have no right-backs tied down for next season.

Jeremie Frimpong left out of nowhere in January, whilst Hatem Elhamed was allowed to go back home to Israel not long after. That’s left us without a natural right-back we can rely on for next season.

Jonjoe Kenny was brought in from Everton on a loan deal, but he’s ultimately been dreadful too. He’ll go back and won’t be heard from up here again. That leaves the new manager with major work to do in this area of the pitch.

He needs two right-backs to be frank. One first-choice option and another for back-up. Anthony Ralston we know by now isn’t good enough and shouldn’t even be considered for a run.

New left-backs required – 1

This is an interesting one. With Diego Laxalt heading back to AC Milan when his loan expires in the summer, Boli Bolingoli will be coming back from Turkey.

That will leave the Belgian competing along with Greg Taylor for the position this summer as things currently stand.

There’s a clear moral issue here regarding whether Boli should return. Many Celtic fans quite rightly can’t go him after his early-season Covid breach that put us on the back foot in the title race. It effectively set the tone for a horrendous campaign. Equally, there will be others who watched him show up well in the Champions League group stages and would like to see what he’s got.

But the general consensus is we need an upgrade on the position. Laxalt didn’t prove to be that upgrade, whilst Taylor is fine to have as back-up. It seems hugely unlikely that the manager will out any level of trust in Boli, and given he’s just back from a long-term injury, that won’t help him either.

Expect one new left-back to arrive as first-choice, with Greg Taylor behind him and Boli potentially moving on.

New centre-backs required – 3

Ajer looks set to leave / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

This position requires work.

Kris Ajer is into the final year of his contract and is expected to depart. Shane Duffy is reportedly already back at Brighton [Scottish Sun]. Chris Jullien, meanwhile, is out until well into next season whilst Stephen Welsh hasn’t proven himself worthy as of yet of staying in the side. As for Nir Bitton, it would be ideal if we could shift him on this summer.

In order to have two solid options for each position, we’ll need to recruit three solid centre-backs. Two to replace Ajer and Duffy, and one to provide an upgrade on Welsh and Bitton. The former will still get his opportunities next season, but we can’t hang our hat on him just yet.

This is one of the areas in the squad that will need the most work, and if we’re rebuilding the squad properly, three is the number we’ll need to go for. Already, that’s seven signings at the back and in goal alone.

New right-wingers required – 1

Please, please, please Celtic. For the love of God get us a worthwhile back-up alternative to James Forrest.

This is a position that Celtic have left to rot for several years. Not since Patrick Roberts have we had someone push Jamesy, and that’s shown in Forrest’s displays over the last couple of years.

We also found out just how costly it is not to have a Forrest alternative available this season. His long-term injury led to left-wingers and number 10s being shoehorned into the wide-right position. So often it stifled us and saw us play to narrow. Throughout the entire campaign, we haven’t had enough width due to Forrest’s injury.

Marian Shved won’t be the answer either. We need to identify a better option, and preferably one that could give Forrest a run for his money next season.

New left-wingers required – 1

Fans will be split on whether Mohamed Elyounoussi should return to the club or not. But whether he does or doesn’t, Celtic need to ensure that a signing is made for the position.

Mikey Johnston will hopefully make an impact this summer when we return for pre-season. If he does, with a bit of luck we’ll see the 2019/20 Johnston return to form and make that left-wing spot his own.

But even if that is to be the case, it would still be eerily similar to the Forrest situation. Johnston is just back from a long-term injury and can’t fully be relied upon. We need someone to replace Moi and ensure that we have the required depth which equates to two options for each flank.

Don’t expect any more than one more recruit in this position however.

New defensive-midfielders required – 0

Celtic midfielder Ismaila Soro / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Finally a position we look good to go in!

Scott Brown’s departure will undoubtedly leave a gaping hole. But it’s one that’s easily filled by Ismaila Soro. He outperformed the captain midway through the season only to be mysteriously dropped.

Alongside him we have the box-to-box Callum McGregor who can easily play the Brown role when required. Not to mention that Olivier Ntcham is returning this summer and the new manager may want to see what he can offer.

Liam Shaw, Luca Connell, Scott Robertson, and Kerr McInroy will also be pushing for minutes in pre-season. This is an area we don’t really have to delve into the market for at the moment.

Simply put – there are other priority positions we need to spend in.

New attacking-midfielders required – 1

Looking particularly at the number 10 position, don’t be surprised if Ryan Christie and Tom Rogic both leave. There could even be interest in David Turnbull, but that shouldn’t be entertained at this moment in time.

Christie will be into the final year of his contract. Rogic, meanwhile, has again struggled for minutes this season and simply isn’t having a positive affect on things anymore. If we could move him on as he closes in on his 30s, it would be a wise move. His struggles to play for a full 90 minutes has been a consistent one, and things aren’t going to get any better.

However, Celtic only really have to replace one of them. David Turnbull should be featuring in the 10 role consistently next season. We need a solid back-up for him, but that would do. Two more would be ideal, but again it isn’t essential to have a third.

Certainly not when you look at the work needing done up top.

New strikers required – 3

Patryk Klimala has already left the club. Odsonne Edouard likely won’t be staying with his contract into its final year. As for Leigh Griffiths, there is no sign the club is rushing to trigger the one-year extension on his deal. I firmly expect all three to have left come the start of next season.

Where does that leave Celtic? With only Albian Ajeti up top. Okay, so Jonathan Afolabi will come back from Dundee too, but he hasn’t shown enough there this season to suggest he’ll be in the mix this summer.

If the new manager wants to go 4-4-2, 3-5-2, or indeed with any two-striker formation, he’ll need three replacements. Every single front-man who leaves will need replaced given we had four on the books this season and need the exact same number next term.

That gives the manager a perfect number of strikers to work with. It opens up so many different formations and even gives him the option of going with a front three without worrying about a potential knock.

Strikers don’t come cheap – good ones anyway. But hey, that’s where the Edouard, Ajer, and Christie money comes in – doesn’t it?

New players required – 13

Incoming Celtic CEO Dominic McKay has some job on his hands this summer / (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Wow. There it is. As things stand that’s the total number of players we need for the rebuild. When we talk about a massive summer overhaul, we certainly aren’t kidding.

Granted, this is subject to change. If we somehow hold on to Edouard or Ajer, for example, the number goes down by one. But there are so many positions in this squad that needs major work over the summer.

That’s why it’s essential the new manager is in the door as soon as possible. And yes, before the end of the current campaign if preferable. If the new man is smart, he’ll also have started his work when it comes to who he’s targeting for some of these positions.

This could easily be a process that takes two windows to sort, but the vast majority of these signings need to come in immediately.

Let’s see what the club can come up with.

In other news, we take a look at why this Celtic player’s relationship with supporters wasn’t helped by his father last year.