THERE was much snorting at the report the other day that Celtic would need to pay Manchester City £5 million to sign John Guidetti on a permanent deal. The sum seemed preposterous when the Swede will be a free agent by the time his year-long loan deal at Parkhead ends.
It is fanciful that Celtic would part with any sort of transfer fee, far less one around three times their standard outlay, for a player who can sign a pre-contract in December. And yet, considering the near £10m they have frankly wasted on forward players in recent years, Guidetti would appear every inch worthy of even a seven-figure investment. Right now, he is Celtic. All too good, perhaps, for the champions to be able to hold on to him.
A hat-trick from the 22-year-old – which takes his tally to eight strikes in his past six appearances – allowed Ronny Deila’s side to dispose ruthlessly of Partick Thistle and so set up the possibility of meeting with Rangers in the semi-finals of the League Cup. It is the outcome of Saturday’s draw that the Ibrox manager Ally McCoist has shown no enthusiasm for. When he reviews the gutting in another Glasgow derby that Guidetti’s exploits underpinned, McCoist might be filled with dread at the prospect.
The two free-kicks with which Guidetti delivered goals No 1 and No 2 of his hat-trick were stupendous. The whip, curl, bend and power he is able to conjure up makes such deadball strikes find top corners like tracer bullets.
In between these strikes on the half hour and in 52 minutes, he ensured there would be no threat from Alan Archibald’s men by inducing a whack from Conrad Balatoni on the cusp of half-time that earned a red card from referee Kevin Clancy. The hopelessness of the visitors’ situation deepened when Emilio Izaguirre hooked in Celtic’s second from close range only minutes after the restart. The roof then caved in for the Maryhill side, with Abdul Osman up-ending Guidetti to allow him to drive in a penalty for his triple, this arriving only seven minutes on from him bringing up his free-kick double.
Leigh Griffiths then appeared and within five minutes he had bagged a double. His first came when he darted across the six-yard box to power in a header from a looping cross. Three minutes later the crumbling of Thistle was complete when he gleefully accepted the gift of a pass-back played straight to him by Stephen O’Donnell. With that sixth goal Celtic brought up their biggest winning margin against Thistle in 40 years.
The Firhill side should consider themselves fortunate to escape with just the six goals conceded because when Griffiths bagged his second with 25 minutes remaining the turkey shoot the tie had become for Celtic looked like it might end up in carnage.
Odd to think that, in assessing the Celtic starting line-up, it seemed questionable. Perhaps silly to assume that after a first-time frontline combination of Stefan Scepovic and Guidetti brought goals for both in the weekend win over Kilmarnock, Deila would stick by the pair. It would seem, though, that the 4-4-2 formation the Norwegian dared to dabble with at the weekend is to be a rare delicacy after the initial benching of Scepovic last night. Maybe the Celtic manager feels that Guidetti is all the strikeforce he needs. It certainly seems that way.
The other day Deila did not hide his desperation to tie-up the Swede on a permanent deal. But the chances are he will be beyond Celtic’s means in terms of the salary he could command. Now that he seems to have proved his fitness and scoring finesse are at the levels that made him such an exciting teenage talent, a £30,000-a-week wage is sure to be wafted in front of him by an English Premier League side. Deila, and the Celtic support, should enjoy him while they can.
Guidetti had said the other day that the quadruple – the domestic treble and Europa League – was a realistic target. The Swede certainly seems to possess the talents to topple any Scottish opponents and, with Celtic’s last League Cup win six seasons and three managers ago, the tournament is the one possible avenue that Deila could improve on the Neil Lennon era.
With Guidetti in the sort of form that makes him look good for a goal or two every time he steps on the park, there is certainly scope for success that, in the knockout competitions, hasn’t come around as often as would be suggested by Celtic’s supposed domestic dominance.
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