The 3 defenders Celtic should be scouting at Euro 2020
Celtic will undoubtedly have their scouting team all over Euro 2020 this summer.
It’s essential that we identify the appropriate targets to strengthen our rebuild. Some of them will be young players with the potential to grow. Others could be experienced internationals that the Hoops feel will be worth the investment.
One of the most pressing concerns for Celtic this summer is definitely the defensive positions. Kris Ajer looks certain to head with Bayer Leverkusen and Newcastle reportedly interested in him [Sky Sports]. Shane Duffy, meanwhile, has left after his loan spell from Brighton came to an end. As for Chris Jullien, there are no guarantees he’ll be back fit in time for the new campaign.
So it could be the case that Celtic need to bag two new centre-backs in order to be strengthened sufficiently. That’s without even mentioning the fact we don’t have a senior right-back at the club just now. Here, we take a look at three players who could solve one of those two issues:
1. Mathias Jorgensen – Denmark
Powerful centre-back Mathias Jorgensen, nicknamed Zanka, looks set to play a big role for Denmark at Euro 2020 this summer.
After recently fighting his way back into the Danish setup, he’ll be itching for game-time. And this is a situation Celtic should be monitoring when looking at potential affordable summer prospects.
Jorgensen comes into the competition with a wealth of experience. Currently contracted to Fenerbahce, Zanka is into the final year of his contract in Turkey. He’s just come off a hugely successful loan spell with his first-ever club, Copenhagen. Despite missing out on the Danish title, Zanka inspired at the heart of Copenhagen defence, and showed his leadership traits when captaining the club on four occasions.
Zanka was a regular in the Premier League between 2017 and 2019 with Huddersfield Town, and he’s still been operating at a high level since. He was also a key cog for Denmark in their Euro qualifying campaign, helping them secure huge results against Switzerland, Georgia, and Ireland. He was also part of the Danish defence that secured a priceless 1-0 win at Wembley back in October.
Known to be commanding in the air and comfortable with the ball at his feet, Zanka looks worth a punt. It’s unlikely he would cost much in the way of a transfer fee given his contract situation too. Out of the picture with Fenerbahce, Celtic should monitor closely and see if he fits the bill.
2. Michal Helik – Poland
Michal Helik probably wouldn’t have dreamed of being in this position 12 months ago. After signing from Barnsley after over 100 appearances with Cracovia, he was nowhere near the Poland set-up. At 24, he had yet to make his debut and was only just introducing himself to football outside of his home country.
Fast forward 12 months and he’s Barnsley’s player of the season and heading off to Euro 2020. Helik made his Poland debut back in March against Hungary, and played his first 90 minutes for his country against Russia last week. After breaking through over the last few matches, he looks primed to play a key role against Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden this month.
Another towering figure, Helik played his part in 16 shutouts en route to a playoff spot with Barnsley. He’s been a regular stalwart in the Championship this season, and has also shown his goal threat with six goals in his 52 appearances [Transfermarkt].
His stock is growing nicely ahead of the Euros after signing a three-year deal in England last summer. It’s likely he wouldn’t come too cheap, but given Barnsley’s history when it comes to transfer sales, Helik could still be affordable.
The prospect of experiencing European football for the first time in his career would also surely appeal. Given Celtic have proven themselves to be a stepping stone to greater things for those who impress, we should be an attraction for Helik. Time will tell whether he can step up at international level this summer, however.
3. Josip Juranovic – Croatia
Celtic are clearly in dire need of some right-back recruits. Preferably, a right-back who knows how to deliver a cross and will be worth his weight in assists too.
Keep an eye out for Croatian right-back Josip Juranovic then. The full-back signed for Legia Warsaw in the summer after a five years with Hajduk Split, and has managed to reinvigorate what had been a fading international career.
Juranovic made his debut for Croatia back in 2017. But for most of his three years in Split, he was overlooked. A move to the Ekstraklasa appears to have turned things around for him once again. He was handed his big chance in November against Turkey in a friendly and hasn’t looked back since. In Croatia’s last eight matches, Juranovic has featured in six of them – playing a key role in their World Cup qualification campaign against Cyprus and Malta respectively.
His natural instinct is to get forward and put teasing deliveries into the box. This is exactly what the Hoops fans like to see from their wide-men. In his debut season in Poland, Juranovic managed to secure a fine eight assists in a title-winning campaign with Legia. Not bad for a defender [Transfermarkt].
He also appears to show strong positional awareness and has s burst of pace to his game too, an essential trait for a modern-day Celtic full-back.
Signings from Poland don’t tend to go for crazy money. Even with a successful Euro 2020 under his belt, Juranovic should still be more than affordable. As things stand we don’t currently have an out-and-out reliable right-back. Celtic, therefore, could do a lot worse than monitor the reinvigorated Croatian international.