Alfa Semedo: How reported Celtic target's recent red cards should be anything but red flag for Scottish champions
The 24-year-old Guinea-Bissau international, said by Portuguese sources to be on the verge of a £2.2m loan-to-buy deal to the Scottish champions from Vitoria Guimaraes, is no shrinking violet. The athletic 6ft 2in performer proved that last season through being shown three red cards in the course of his 26 league outings – two of these straight dismissals. In addition to his other dismissal for two bookable offences in the early weeks of the campaign, he was shown a further six yellows.
A number of Celtic watchers – Chris Sutton chief among them – have suggested that what was desperately required in Ange Postecoglou transfer dealings over the summer was the recruitment of an “enforcer” to complement the ball players he possesses in abundance. Semedo would appear every inch that. And every inch the type of which Celtic were shorn with the departure of Nir Bitton following the Israeli’s nine years in Glasgow. A stint wherein he earned six reds – a figure that left him second only to Scott Brown, who collected seven, in the club’s annals for sending offs.
Among the other attractions of Semedo is that he has packed in plenty across his career – including two spells in the English Championship – since he left his homeland and entered the Benfica youth system aged 16. A time when a certain winger 16 months his junior by the name of Jota – expected to sign permanently for Celtic in a £6.4m deal with the Lisbon club – was making his way through the ranks. Semedo’s frame and drive then led to him being considered a player who could be utilised as a defensive midfielder, an auxiliary centre-back, and even a box-to-box player. As he was deployed when loaned out to Vilafranquense for the 2016-17 campaign. Latterly, though, he has settled into the ball-winning role. Impressive returns were achieved in that role with Guimaraes last season. As the club finished 12th in the Portuguese top flight only one player bettered him for tackles, while he was rated fourth-highest for interceptions.
This development occurred through a five-year period in which he initially left Benfica for Moreirense in the summer of 2017. Within a year, they had bought him back for £2m. He only made a handful of senior appearances for the Stadium of Light side, though, across the next three years. He fared much better in featuring regularly when loaned out to Nottingham Forest in 2019-20, and then Reading the following season. Both stints followed an unproductive stint after he was initially farmed out to Espanyol. Notably, his disciplinary record in English football was exemplary. Indeed, until last season he hadn’t seen red. Patently, he has sought to become more aggressive. The rewards for becoming a more forceful presence have come in the international domain. He debuted for Guinea-Bissau while with Reading in March 2021 – netting a rare goal in a 3-1 win over Eswantini in Africa Cup of Nations qualification – and has been a regular pretty much since. The most recent of his 11 caps came earlier this month as he helped his nation qualify for the next edition of the ACOP finals – bagging a second goal in his country’s colours as they defeated São Tomé and Príncipe 5-1. But it won’t be goals Celtic will be looking from him if he joins. It will be his grit.
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