Different but better. That’s the conclusion Christopher Jullien has reached in assessing and comparing the merits of Celtic’s current No 1 striker Odsonne Edouard and his predecessor Moussa Dembele.
Jullien is well placed to pass judgement on his compatriots, the giant French defender having played against Dembele in Ligue 1 last season and now training with and playing alongside Edouard for the Scottish champions.
“I would say Odsonne is better because I’ve only played with him,” said Jullien. “I would say Odsonne, for sure.
“You all saw it before I joined Celtic that Moussa is a really good striker, but Odsonne is younger and his talent is really good.”
While their paths briefly crossed at Celtic when Edouard was initially on loan at the club from Paris Saint-Germain, Dembele was widely regarded as the more accomplished and dangerous striker.
He scored 51 goals in 94 appearances for Celtic, crucially displaying the knack of finding the net in their highest profile fixtures, claiming seven in nine Old Firm games and eight in European club competitions.
But if Dembele’s £19.7 million move to Lyon on transfer deadline day in August last year left many Celtic fans feeling bereft, they quickly discovered a new French idol in Edouard who has certainly justified the club record £9 million fee paid to make his move from PSG a permanent one.
The 21-year-old has scored 47 goals in 106 appearances for Celtic so far and if that strike rate is slightly inferior to Demeble’s, the younger man’s numbers in the big games certainly match up. Edouard has scored five times in seven outings against Rangers and nine times in Europe.
“I have already said that there is no limit to what Odsonne can do, because his game is so complete,” added Jullien.
“He can do everything. He’s not slow, he can run, he can dribble, he can play with his head, he can come deep and play like a number 10, and his skills are unbelievable. Comparing him to Moussa would be a mistake, they are definitely not the same. I played against Moussa last season for Toulouse against Lyon, so I can say that.
“Moussa is a good striker, really powerful, and Odsonne is a different striker, but the sky is the limit for him.”
Jullien’s summer arrival in a £7 million move from Toulouse has reinforced the French influence at Celtic where midfielder Olivier Ntcham, pictured, remains a valuable, if occasionally peripheral, member of Neil Lennon’s squad.
Ntcham has had to be content with contributing from the subs’ bench for much of this season but did that to stunning effect when he scored the winner in Celtic’s memorable 2-1 win over Lazio in Rome earlier this month which secured their place in the last 32 of the Europa League.
“It was a really good moment and I was really happy for Olivier,” said Jullien. “He’s had some problems this season so far, so I’m really happy for him.
“Since I arrived here, he has stayed with me as a friend and has made me feel better on the field, which has been really nice.
“We all know his talent, so I’m not afraid for him or his future here. The fact he has been in and out of the team says a lot about our squad.
“When you have quality and talent like that, sometimes you won’t be playing every game. We are all together, though, and that just shows the strength that we have.
“It’s really good for the team that in every training session you have to fight for your place. That keeps the momentum going and it’s really good for us.”
Celtic will look to maintain that momentum on Thursday night when they host Rennes in their penultimate Europa League Group E fixture. The French side are already eliminated, having taken just one point from their first four games, that draw coming in the opener at home to Celtic back in September.
Rennes are also struggling domestically, languishing in 11th place in Ligue 1 after losing 2-1 away to Dijon on Saturday. “It hasn’t surprised me that Celtic have done better than Rennes in the group,” said Jullien. “Celtic are a quality team and all the world knows it.
“Even before we played Rennes in France at the start of the group, I really believed that our team was better. We drew 1-1 there but I really think we could have won the game.
“Last year, Rennes had a good season, winning the French Cup and going far in the Europa League. They have really good young players, although they can be up and down.
“So it’s not surprised me that they are bottom of our group because it is a really hard group. I’m just really happy for us and I’m looking forward to seeing how the second game against Rennes goes.
‘It’s going to be a really important game against Rennes, even though we have already qualified for the knockout stage. We want to win and try to finish top of the group.”