If you’ve watched a second of Celtic this season, you’ll know we need defenders.
Admittedly, things have been better of late. With Stephen Welsh signing a new deal, and looking impressive next to the evergreen Kristoffer Ajer, we’ve conceded once in five matches. Beyond them, though, the options are pretty threadbare. Christopher Jullien is a massive legend of a guy, but has a long-term injury. Shane Duffy isn’t likely to stay on. Jack Hendry’s future, meanwhile, is up in the air.
Therefore, it’s a must that Celtic bolster their ranks. There have been links with Ben Davies [Sky Sports] and Omar Colley [Sky Sports] over the last 12 months, but beyond that it’s been a little sparse. Truthfully, we just don’t know what Celtic are really going to do in the summer, quite yet.
What’s been a constant over the last decade, though, is finding talent from less fashionable locales. For example, Ligue 2, where we picked up Jullien, or the Norwegian top-flight, which got us Ajer. Beyond Serie A, the Premier League and the other so-called “big boys” of Europe, there are plenty of talented names.
Here are three who could do the trick for Celtic in the long-term.
Sebastian Ohlsson; perhaps a familiar name to Celtic supporters already
Do you follow St Pauli? Chances are, you’re at least likely to have developed a soft spot for the 2. Bundesliga side. With their socialist politics, fan ownership and trendy, European values, they’ve become kindred spirits with the Bhoys over the years. However, it might actually be time to use that great relationship to nick one of their best players.
I know! I know. It sounds shameful. But hear me out. We need a right-back as a matter of urgency, and Ohlsson is doing a fantastic job for Der Freibeuter der Liga (Pirates of the League). A monstrously versatile player, Ohlsson is primarily a right-back, but can play anywhere in the midfield, too. He even has 19 career appearances as a centre-forward [Transfermarkt].
This well-rounded game has translated into good performances. Primarily deputising in the right of St Pauli’s defence, the 27-year-old has made an impressive 2.1 interceptions a game, while successfully tackling 3.6 times per 90 [WhoScored?]. That’s excellent, and comparisons to Mikael Lustig are not too off the mark, here.
St Pauli would likely want about a million for their multi-talented defender, and he’s got range to his game that is immensely valuable. Fine, he’s not a star name as such, but he’s doing well for a side that is familiar to Celtic supporters en masse.
Everyone goes on about Jack Hendry, don’t they? But even a cursory glance at the Jupiler Pro League offers some interesting names. Up amongst the top of those is Moroccan defender Saad Agouzoul, who’s enjoying a fruitful spell at Excelsior Mouscron.
On loan from Lille, Agouzoul is just 23, and has made 69 professional appearances in his career to date. The majority of those have come for Kawkab Marrakech, before Les Dogues flexed their scouting muscles and snapped him up. He’s not managed any senior appearances for the Ligue 1 leaders yet, and at 23, you’d expect him to be considering his options.
An out-and-out centre back, Agouzoul is nearly 6’3″, and he uses his height well, winning 3.2 aerial duels per 90 [WhoScored?]. He could definitely use some work on his distribution, completing only around 70% of his near 37 passes a game, though.
Valued at less than £1m by Transfermarkt, Agouzoul has been as impressive as Hendry, if not more so. Fine, he’s playing for a far worse team [Jupiler Pro League], but at under a million, and rated by Europa League foes, his future has more in store.
Léo Andrade – the man to break the Brazilian curse at Celtic?
Now, let’s get this out of the way first, Léo Andrade is Brazilian.
While most football fans think of “Mas Que Nada” and Ronaldo slaloming in an airport, Celtic supporters think Brazil and get horrible flash-backs of Juninho and Rafael Scheidt. Who can blame us?
But maybe, just maybe, Léo Andrade of Maritimo can help break the Brazilian hoodoo. Rated as one of the better defenders in Portugal’s Liga NOS this season, Curitiba-born Andrade is just 22 and is comfortable either side of back two or back three.
Comfortable on the ball, Andrade reads the game well, making 2.5 interceptions per 90 for an admittedly busy defence [WhoScored?]. Of course, some clichés are there for a reason, and Andrade is the kind of Brazilian centre-back who likes to dribble with the ball, usually popping up with one run out of defence a game.
He only joined Maritimo in November 2020, but the Portuguese side are in a relegation battle and could probably use a million Euros for their recent investment. Excellent in the air, and adept at reading the game, Andrade might be a risk, albeit an inexpensive one.
He won’t fill the gossip columns, but he’s certainly worth taking a look at. At the very least, he’s got to be better than Rafael Scheidt.