How Vasilis Barkas set to be Celtic history maker - and what fans can expect from giant AEK goalkeeper

Greek international eclipses all predecessors in role

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 08: Vassilis Barkas of AEK Athens looks on during the UEFA Champions League Qualifier between Celtic and AEK Athens at Celtic Park Stadium on August 8, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 08: Vassilis Barkas of AEK Athens looks on during the UEFA Champions League Qualifier between Celtic and AEK Athens at Celtic Park Stadium on August 8, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Vasilis Barkas is set to make history at Celtic even before he pulls on his gloves in earnest for his new club.

The 26-year-old Greek’s signing is expected to be confirmed by the Scottish champions imminently. His acquisition from AEK Athens is understood to be costing Celtic around £5m, with the potential for a further £1m add-ons. And that sum will ensure he becomes the most expensive goalkeeping recruit in the club’s history.

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To put the outlay for the Dutch-born performer - believed to have agreed a four-year contract – in context, it is more than double Celtic’s previous highest fee for a keeper, which came with the £2m they paid to Newcastle United for Fraser Forster in June 2012. Indeed, with Robert Douglas and Magnus Hedman jointly the previous most expensive Celtic keepers through being signed by Martin O’Neill in £1.5m deals, the investment on Barkas is equivalent to those three put together.

Ironically, the requirement to attract the Greek international was the inability to construct a deal to return Forster to Celtic Park from Southampton following the towering Englishman’s stunning year on loan for the last campaign, his third stint for the Glasgow club.

Coupled with the departure of Craig Gordon, Neil Lennon faced going into a season wherein the club will be chasing an all-consuming Scottish record 10th title with Scott Bain as his only senior keeper.

Barkas began his career with Atromitos - making his senior debut there little over a week before his 22nd birthday - before moving to AEK four years ago. A couple of injury lay offs meant it wasn’t really until two years ago that the 6ft 5in keeper cemented his first choice status. Even then, though, his talents had already been recognised with the Athens club rejecting a £5m bid for him from Udinese.

In a twist of fate, he was helped on his way by his performances in the Athens side’s Champions League third round qualifier success over Celtic that paved the way for the Greeks to progress to the group stages. Five months earlier Barkas earned his first senior cap for his country in a friendly win away to Egypt. He has subsequently been capped a furth nine times, three of these .

Earlier this week famed former Olympiacos and Panathinaikos keeper Nikos Sarganis, who won 58 caps for Greece, talked up Barkas as the coming keeper of his homeland and across the continent.

"Vasilis is a keeper I like a lot. He's very stable and his reactions are sharp,” Sarganis said. “He's also very good with his feet, which is important now for a goalkeeper. He's comfortable with both feet. He has a presence about him which relaxes his team mates. He comes for crosses and is good in the air and his handling technique is very good too

"I think he is very consistent and that is why attracted a lot of interest. I personally told him he should go abroad to improve his all-round game. He has the potential to be one of the better keepers in European football. I can't recall him making many mistakes either.

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"For me, Vasilis will be Greece's goalkeeper for many years in the future. He has the personality you need, the self-confidence and the respect of his team mates.”

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