Celtic supporters have reacted with disbelief at talk linking them with £25 million-rated Porto striker Moussa Marega.
The Malian striker - who has previously been linked with a host of clubs including Everton and Wolves - has netted 41 goals for Os Dragoes since joining from Maritimo in 2016.
So what’s the Celtic connection?
An image appeared on social media earlier this week, via one of the biggest Hoops fans’ forums, showing a Celtic jersey from the current season with “Marega 11” on the back of it. It also had a “sale” tag attached.
Comments on Twitter from the Porto-based football fan who shared the photo read: “A friend of mine who is part of one of the biggest Celtic supporters’ forums sent me this picture today (Celtic’s official store) and told me that a deal is already done for £25 million.”
The 28-year-old is valued at £27 million (according to Transfermarkt) but is under contract until summer 2021, and when you consider his contribution to the team in terms of goals and assists, it’s not ridiculous to assume Porto would want more for the striker if he was to leave.
Could it happen?
Porto have been linked with Olivier Ntcham over the last 18 months or so, and it’s not unheard of for clubs to use makeweights in an attempt to strike a deal for a top target. Celtic aren’t awash with strikers - natural winger Oliver Burke has been used as an auxiliary frontman at times this season - so it makes sense, but it’s hard to imagine Porto allowing Marega to leave for that price, even if they do get Ntcham plus cash in return.
The Essonne-born player has played 45 games for Porto this term, scoring 21 goals and registering 11 assists in all competitions - including six goals and three assists in the UEFA Champions League. He played a key role in Porto’s attack during Vincent Aboubakar’s lengthy injury lay-off, and scored in six consecutive UEFA Champions League games as the Portuguese side reached the quarter-finals for the first time in four years.
Celtic have been linked with Marega in the past, when he was at Maritimo. Hoops scouts watched the Mali internationalist in action against Madeira in August 2015, in which he got an assist. Marega’s release clause at the time, according to Portuguese publication Record, was €5 million.
West Ham have also been keeping tabs on Marega, and reports in Portuguese paper A Bola today suggest that Porto have agreed to sell the striker to the Hammers, who are able to match his €40 million release clause.
It’s easy to see why Celtic were linked with the player - Marega has European experience, can create goals as well as score them and a spell with Celtic could be used as a stepping stone to the English Premier League, following in the footsteps of Virgil van Dijk and Fraser Forster. However, he isn’t a young, raw talent from a mid-table club in Europe - Marega is an established, international striker who has been banging in the goals for one of Europe’s top clubs.
It’s also very hard to imagine Celtic forking out £25 million on a 28-year-old even if they did have the funds - and after Moussa Dembele’s transfer to Lyon last summer plus the financial benefit of European football, you’d imagine that money wouldn’t be an issue in the slightest. The club’s biggest outlay to date was the £9 million spent on striker Odsonne Edouard, but the former Paris Saint-Germain youngster has just turned 21 and has scored 21 goals and added eight assists in all competitions this year - 32 goals and 12 assists over his entire time in Scotland. He still has room to improve but the Frenchman clearly has talent in spades that will surely come to the fore as he progresses. Having a player of Marega’s stature at Celtic would obviously be a benefit to Edouard and the other strikers, but spending £35 million on two forwards is excessive - especially with Vakoun Issouf Bayo and Maryan Shved waiting in the wings.
Marega doesn’t fit the club’s recent strategy for signing players, either: Edouard, Burke, Bayo, Shved, Andrew Gutman, Manny Perez, Daniel Arzani, Timothy Weah, Lewis Morgan and Filip Benkovic are all aged 22 or under.
Never say never, of course, but it looks as though this rumour is merely wishful thinking from a very optimistic Hoops fan, with Marega looking set to seal his dream move to the English Premier League.