Four things Celtic fans should know about Rivaldo Coetzee

Coetzee Rivaldo, left, is on his way to Celtic Park. Picture: Getty
Coetzee Rivaldo, left, is on his way to Celtic Park. Picture: Getty
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According to his club Ajax Cape Town, Celtic have agreed a deal to sign defender Rivaldo Coetzee. Here’s everything you need to know about the 20-year-old.

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He was (briefly) South Africa’s youngster ever international

The defender made his debut for the Bafana Bafana at the tender age of 17 (five days short of his 18th birthday) during an African Cup of Nations qualifier against Congo in 2014. It broke the 15-year record held by ex-Blackburn and Portsmouth stopper Aaron Mokoena, though the new mark would only last a further seven weeks before it was broken once more by midfielder Fagrie Lakay.

Unlikely Lakay, who’s made only one appearance for the national side to date, Coetzee has become a mainstay of the squad, racking up 22 caps in total.

He’s a technically gifted centre back

As you’d expect from a Brendan Rodgers’ sanctioned signing, Coetzee is a technically gifted centre-back. Confident on the ball with sharp technique and an eye for a forward pass, it’s difficult to imagine the player having much problem fitting into his new side. Ball-playing defenders may attract the ire of fans when they’re on teams battling against relegation, but Celtic’s domination is such that the centre-backs are basically given free reign to bring the ball past halfway, with the other side trying their best to put a marker or two on the multiple threats in attack.

A strange statistic from last season was the Ladbrokes Premiership leader in passing percentage being none other than Dedryck Boyata. Nobody would claim the Belgian is a particularly great passer of the ball, but he’s given time to make the right decision and, under Rodgers, isn’t asked to do too much with it.

Coetzee’s 87.06 per cent passing accuracy was 30th among all players in the South African top flight last term. It doesn’t measure up to any of Celtic’s starting centre-backs, but then the incoming arrival played on a much weaker side. Ajax Cape Town finished in tenth of 16 teams. This would have negatively effected the defender’s passing stats, as he would have been generally under more pressure with weaker targets to aim for. Those numbers will almost certainly improve following his switch to Glasgow.

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He’s an athletic player

He isn’t the biggest of centre-backs, around 5ft 10in, but he’s got a tremendous leap which makes up for his lack of physical stature. Though he prefers to anticipate play rather than rush in, when he does rise for aerial challenges he’s got a strong success rate, winning 65 per cent of aerial duels last season. That mark was good enough for ninth among all centre-backs in the South African top flight.

What’s more, he’s quick on his feet, both in a sense of winning a race over 20 yards and turning in a flash to halt a striker trying to sneak in behind. His 105 interceptions placed him 15th among all players in the league last term in that particular statistic, demonstrating his ability to read play and sneak up on unsuspecting strikers.

He went AWOL earlier this summer

Coetzee is finally getting his dream move to Europe after a turbulent summer in which he took matters into his own hands, going AWOL and refusing to report back for pre-season training in order to force Ajax’s hand.

This move brought with it the ire of coach Stanley Menzo, who told the local media: “Very disappointed, for me it’s football and it’s a small world and it shows no respect for your teammates. If it’s an issue with the club then keep it with the club, but don’t bring it into your teammates who work with you.”

The self-imposed exodus lasted over a fortnight before Coetzee came back to the squad, agreeing to release a video which the club circulated on social media where he apologised for his actions and promised to focus on his football.

He said: “Firstly I would like to apologise to the club, to the coaches and all my teammates for the way I behaved for the past three weeks. Ajax Cape Town has played a big role in my career and development so far. Me and the club are working together to develop even further. I am happy to say I spoke to coach [Stanley] Menzo and I apologised to him.”

Incidentally, Menzo was the coach Tony Watt had a spat with while he was on loan at Belgian side Lierse from Celtic back in 2013.

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