It is believed that the moves to sign permanent deals for last season’s successful loanees centre-back Cameron Carter-Vickers and winger Jota are now firmly gathering pace. Assuming these are successfully concluded, they will commit Celtic to an outlay of £16m - Carter-Vickers cost from Tottenham Hotspur placed at £6m plus a further £4m on add-ons, while the purchase clause previously agreed with Benfica for Jota is understood to be £6.5m. Coupled with this week’s activation of the £2m loan-to-buy option that covered Daizen Maeda’s January switch from Yokahama F Marinos, it could be that, merely by the end of this month, Celtic will have essentially invested £18m in preparation for the forthcoming campaign. As a starting point.
The fiscal comforts that allow Celtic to plan in such fashion highlight the wriggle-room provided by two factors: direct entry to the Champions League and the player trading model that has been a cornerstone of the club’s operations for the best part of two decades. An often grumbled-about cornerstone for the board-bashers among the Celtic support, it must be acknowledged. Perhaps they will have cause to reflect on such exasperations when considering how the policy could underpin almost £42m worth of transfer fees paid out since Ange Postecoglou was appointed 11 months ago - the figure that would be reached with the various elements of the permanent deals for Carter-Vickers and Jota.
Even with such considerable forking out on transfer fees, Celtic would not require to dip into their £20m bank reserve for a straightforward reason. Since last April, when Patryk Klimala was moved on to New York Red Bulls in a deal worth £3m, Celtic have raked in £41.5m in transfer fees courtesy of the sale of Odsonne Edouard to Crystal Palace, Brentford’s purchase of Kristoffer Ajer and Ryan Christie’s switch to Bournemouth last summer. These three departures are believed to be worth £14m, £13.5m and £3.5m respectively.
The upshot is that only further squad strengthening in this close season by Postecoglou would come from the revenues projected in the coming 12 months - links to £3m Hammarby left back Mohanad Jeahze and £4.5m Japanese centre-back Ko Itakura not precluding a further £10m being made available to invest in a ball-winner midfielder and right winger/attacker, according to sources close to the club. On this front, an illustration of the extent to which the near-£40m Chamions League lolly that has been guaranteed through snaring the title could be game-changing came with figures published this week by blogger Swiss Ramble.
These covered Rangers’ income from their run to the Europa League final or, to put it another way, just about the best money you can make without jousting among the global elite in club football’s most lucrative cross-boder competition. The Ibrox side earned in the region of £18m, before taking into account matchday revenue. Using the same measure, that isn’t even half of what Celtic will rake in for participation in the Champions League. Moreover, what this does for Celtic’s revenue streams is astronomical. In 2017-18, courtesy of contesting the Champions Leage group stages, the club’s revenue tipped beyond £100m for the first, and only time. By a whole £1m, to settle at £101m.
The figure was underpinned by matchday income in the region of £43m, and a Champions League bounty of £32.5m. With the club announcing a 5% increase in season ticket prices for the season ahead, and a lengthy waiting list, it can be expected that there will be at least a £2m uptick in this figure. And, when it comes to earnings from the Champions League, as already stated, these are set to be around £7m more than banked by the Scottish champions four years ago. Another revenue stream sure to be bolstered takes the form of the three-game packages for the club’s first Champions League games proper in four years. It is a safe bet these will sell out. It is an equally safe bet the cost of them will be greater than was the case in 2018. All of which suggests Celtic’s revenue can push towards the £110m mark. That would be new ground for a Scottish club.
The fiscal responsibility central to Celtic’s governance model, meanwhile, ensures that not all the number-crunching associated with the club’s operations is inflationary. In 2018-19, the club’s wage bill was £53m. The most recent accounts published put that total at £50m. The intention is to ship out a raft of players who are surplus to requirements in the form of Vasilis Barkas, Albian Ajeti, Boli Bolingoli and Ismaila Soro. If they are moved on, even in just loan deals, this could amount to budgetary savings in the region of £3m. Granted, this may be largely offset by the salary demands required to be met to seal permanent deals for Carter-Vickers and Jota. However, even allowing for that, Celtic’s wages to turnover ratio would remain comfortably within the 60% bracket considered crucial to football clubs operating in self-sustaining fashion.
Not that Celtic have ever had real problems on that score. The accounts for last season look like they will see the club post an £18m profit - up from the £5.9m loss they registered when the previous season was halted two months early because of the Covid-19 lockdown. With the earnings of last season, Celtic will have been in the black for eight of the past 10 seasons. The most recent campaign is the ninth of these 10 seasons when profitability hasn’t precluded pre-eminence in top flight terms. Celtic, a mere year on from their spectacular fall from grace, certainly appear in the pink once again.