Four things Celtic fans should know about midfielder Kundai Benyu

Kundai Benyu has signed for Celtic on a four-year deal. Picture: Celtic FC
Kundai Benyu has signed for Celtic on a four-year deal. Picture: Celtic FC
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Celtic agreed to sign the young midfielder on a pre-contract from Ipswich Town on Thursday. Here’s everything Celtic fans need to know about the player.

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It’s clear he’s a long-term project

There are a few similarities with Moussa Dembele. Both were 19 when they were signed. Both were recruited from an English Championship club after their contracts had expired. And both had English Premier League clubs monitoring their progress. But while Dembele had experience playing, and starring, for Fulham in the second tier of English football, Benyu had yet to make an experience at the level. His first-team adventures arrived via a loan spell with Aldershot Town in the Nation League (fifth tier). Players have come straight from such depths before and played well in Scottish football. Marley Watkins, for example, came from that level when he signed for Inverness. However, it’s not something Celtic have done too often, if at all. He’ll likely be sent out on loan, or given appearances here and there while Celtic’s coaches work on his game.

He was third in the National League in passes per 90 minutes

Ok, it’s only the Conference, but the statistic indicates he’s a young man with little fear about getting on the football. Those kind of numbers you would expect from a player who likes to sit deep and play the simple passes, and while Benyu did play at defensive midfield in around a third of his games, the rest of the time he was one of the more advanced midfielders, sometimes even starting as the No.10. He’s not afraid of moving the play forward, as illustrated by his 10.08 passes per game to the final third (14th overall).

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He’s got a decent eye for goal

He netted five goals in his 23 games with Aldershot, which is a good mark for a young player in his first season, regardless of level. And unlike some midfielders, he didn’t reach the number by peppering shots, but rather picking and choosing his spots. His 1.41 shots per game were fairly low, though his 36.67 shooting percentage is solid for a midfielder. It suggests an intelligence when it comes to the hardest act in football, which is putting the ball in the back of the net.

Ipswich fans were split on his exit

Benyu fell out with manager Mick McCarthy while at Ipswich. It’s quite unusual for such a story to go public when one of the people involved is a teenager who’s yet to play for the first-team. This meant a number of fans labelled him as a trouble-maker and were giving it “good riddance” upon news of his exit. However, even if it was a mistake by the player, he’s still only a young man learning his way. Mistakes will be made and it’s how he responds that’s important. It stands to reason that a number of fans were lashing out, as football supporters tend to do, because a highly-rated prospect had left for peanuts. Other Ipswich fans lamented as much, disappointed that a six-figure compensation fee was the only recompense for losing a talented youngster.

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