Celtic won war against Rangers but their own rebuild beckons with transfers and player cull planned for summer

Previous windows have been below what clubs expects and mistakes are set to be learned in summer

There will be a few sore Celtic heads this Bank Holiday Monday. Winning the Scottish Cup final against Rangers was a moment to savour for a coaching staff and playing pool that haven’t had their troubles to seek.

Manager Brendan Rodgers and his team were written off by some observers, and some of their fans, earlier in the campaign as their Old Firm rivals mounted a title challenge. Celtic, to their immense credit, responded and worked back through the gears. A double is not too shabby at all, the Premiership and Scottish Cup locked up safely inside Parkhead.

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Captain Callum McGregor spoke of the club’s desire to improve in the wake of beating Rangers 1-0 at Hampden. In the cold light of day, this has not been a vintage season from the club in terms of performances. Injuries to some key players has not helped, but anyone watching the final will have noted a lack of quality across both sides of the divide. After two poor transfer windows, Celtic need to strengthen. They have enlisted the support of well-regarded scouting guru Mark Cooper after dispensing with recruitment chief Mark Lawwell earlier this year

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers and James Forrest bring out the cinch Premiership trophy and the Scottish Cup.Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers and James Forrest bring out the cinch Premiership trophy and the Scottish Cup.
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers and James Forrest bring out the cinch Premiership trophy and the Scottish Cup.

Goalkeeper will be the first priority. No 1 Joe Hart has now retired. He leaves sizeable gloves to fill. One of his deputies, Benjamin Siegrist, is expected to depart too. Already a few names have been mentioned as potential successors. Free agent Koen Casteels, a 31-year-old Belgian who has just left Wolfsburg, was linked with Celtic last week. RKC Waalwijk’s Etienne Vaesen and Trabzonspor’s Ugurcan Cakir are other names in the mix. This is a move Rodgers and Co need to get right. Memories of Vasilis Barkas, the calamitous Greek goalkeeper signed in 2020 to replace Fraser Forster, are fresh in the mind. His arrival coincided with Rangers wrestling back top-dog status.

Defence looks one of the most proficient part of the team in terms of starting XI, but considering neither centre-half signed last summer has made any sort of impact is telling. More than £5 million was spent combined on Gustaf Lagerbielke and Maik Nawrocki, yet both have been overtaken by Liam Scales, who this time last year was out of the picture following a loan spell at Aberdeen. Scales is now first-choice alongside Cameron Carter-Vickers but reinforcements are required. Greg Taylor is Rodgers’ only senior natural left-back and a deputy is needed, too.

Midfield will likely need reshaped should a big bid materialise for Matt O’Riley. The Danish playmaker was wanted by Atletico Madrid in January and Celtic’s resolve will surely be tested by more illustrious suitors. His departure would break up the Callum McGregor-Reo Hatate-O’Riley trio that is devastating in the Premiership when at its best. Paulo Bernardo, who made a big difference when he came on in the Scottish Cup final, is due to return to Benfica. Celtic have an option to buy but as yet, that has not been triggered. Tomoki Iwata is the only stable alternative. Given two summer signings in Odin Thiago Holm and Kwon Hyeok-kyu have made no impact in that area of the team, Celtic could be light in that department.

The same can be said in attack. Kyogo Furuhashi is Celtic’s top scorer but the Japanese has only shone in fits and starts. Norwich loanee Adam Idah stole a lot of the limelight with late league goals and then netting the winner in the Scottish Cup final win over Rangers. Contracted until 2028 at Carrow Road, it has been suggested that Celtic would need to spend a fee in the region of £6m for the 23-year-old Irishman. Rodgers wants to keep him, so one can expect some negotiations. A complication could be a managerial chance at the Canaries, with David Wagner sacked and Johannes Hoff Thorup set to replace him.

Celtic are likely to field bids for Matt O'Riley.Celtic are likely to field bids for Matt O'Riley.
Celtic are likely to field bids for Matt O'Riley.

Regardless of the Idah situation, Celtic need another forward to compete with Kyogo. They also need more options out wide given that Jota and Liel Abada have yet to be properly replaced. Luis Palma had his moments this term and is likely to improve from his first year in Scotland. South Korean winger Yang Hjun-jun was left out of the squad entirely for the match against Rangers, with veteran James Forrest usurping him in the pecking order. Nicolas Kuhn, a winter signing from Rapid Vienna, took a while to get up to speed and showed flashes of potential. Mikey Johnston returns from a fruitful six-month loan spell at West Brom, but has never quite done it in Celtic colours. Daizen Maeda is the only consistent performer in this area of the pitch and it would be no surprise to see Celtic recruit again here.

Like last season, there is fat to trim in the squad, transfer fees to recouped and wages to be freed up. Hart has already left, while it is not inconceivable that Siegrist, Lagerbielke, Nawrocki, Yuki Kobayashi, James McCarthy, Holm, Kwon, Yang and Johnston could be moved on. Then there are the returning loanees who feel so far out of the picture: Alexandro Bernabei, Marco Tilio, Liam Shaw, Sead Haksabanovic and Johnny Kenny. A sale of O’Riley would bring a transfer bounty north of £20m for a club that is already in good financial health.

On the domestic front, Celtic go into the summer in a position of great strength. This window is a further opportunity to pull away from Rangers and make themselves better prepared for Champions League football. It is unlikely the failings of the previous two transfer windows will be accepted, and repeated, this time around.



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