He’s guaranteed to play
Manchester City are keen to have him play at a higher level, which is understandable. According to reports, they are still reticent to send Roberts out on a permanent transfer, which suggests they still believe there’s a chance he’ll blossom into a player who could star for them at the top end of the English Premier League. Therefore, punting him out to Southampton, for instance, would give them a better idea of his current level of ability.
However, if you’re looking for a player to develop, there is nothing that beats regular first-team football, and that’s what he’ll definitely get at Celtic. It took a little longer than many expected, but his excellent form in the second half of last season saw him usurp James Forrest as the starting right midfielder and he became one of the first names on the team-sheet by the end of the campaign.
Should he return there’s no doubt he’ll take the spot on the right of Celtic’s front four. It will give him the chance to work on his craft and, more importantly, boost his confidence further. There’s very few things in football more important to an individual player’s form than confidence. A move to a Premier League side would be rife with danger if he doesn’t hit the ground running, as it could knock his self-belief. There’s little chance of him encountering that potential pit-fall at Celtic.
The Champions League
Sure, excelling in the Scottish Premiership isn’t going to sway Manchester City’s opinion of Roberts one way or another, but it’s not the only competition he’s likely to play in if the move goes ahead.
Celtic are just one round away from the Champions League group stages once again. They’re favourites to advance past Astana and those odds will be shortened further if they can sign Roberts and register him in time.
That will give Roberts six games in which to prove himself against the elite of Europe. It may be a small sample size, but it’s a good way for City to have the best of both worlds. Their talent is guaranteed first-team football in a situation that’s sure to keep his confidence levels high, while they also get matches against elite competition in which to judge his progression.
When a player moves from one club to another there are several variables which have to be taken into consideration, one of which is the manager of the other club involved in the move.
How does he plan on using the player? What’s his personality like? Will it get the best out of the player? Is he a really big fan or is he just looking to pad out the squad? Is he any good at developing young players?
With Brendan Rodgers, City already know the answer to these questions. Not only can they trust him to use Roberts in the correct way, they should know from his achievements over the past 12 months that he’s an excellent mentor on the training field, having radically improved the form of several Celtic stars, notably Stuart Armstrong, Callum McGregor, Scott Brown and Dedryck Boyata.
Ex-pros are always talking up the value of experiencing success. Footballers are better equipped to win trophies, so they say, if they’ve been in the position before. While this may be a little overstated, and something of a cliché, it must help when facing a high pressure situation if you’ve dealt with a similar circumstance. If Roberts is to star for Manchester City one day, he’ll have to be equipped to deal with the intensity that goes with playing in a huge match in front of the watching world, not to mention 60,000 people inside the stadium.
While not on quite the same scale, Old Firm games, particularly cup battles at Hampden, are up there with the most high intensity matches in football. Then there’s the prospect of Celtic clinching back-to-back trebles. If that doesn’t instil a winning mentality in a player then nothing will.