McGree, Jota, Carter-Vickers and the £37.5m Celtic board 'parsimony' misconceptions

Celtic are closing in on midfielder Riley McGree.Celtic are closing in on midfielder Riley McGree.
Celtic are closing in on midfielder Riley McGree.
The tickling memes have been flying around as the Celtic support pinch themselves at the perceived conversion of their club to no longer defaulting to feeling the pinch.

Indeed, the only surprise is that we haven’t been treated to chief executive Michael Nicholson’s face superimposed on an inebriated seaman with pockets out-turned. It is easy to see why the Celtic faithful consider that their board have cast aside supposed parsimonious ways in the Ange Postecoglou era. A £2.5million acquisition of Australian international Riley McGree has been touted. Meanwhile, there seems the very real possibility that £6m transfers will be struck with Benfica and Tottenham Hotspur for Portuguese winger Jota and centre-back Cameron Carter-Vickers. Business that would make the pair permanent members of a squad comprehensively retooled across Postecoglou’s seven months. And not just in terms of bodies, but with bounties more plentiful than ever witnessed in the club’s history across a single season.

Should deals for McGree, Jota and Carter-Vickers be completed, the committed outlay on fees since the 56-year-old took the reins will head into the eye-watering region of £37.5m. For context, the highest such spend across a single season previously was the £20m that allowed Neil Lennon to bring a fresh impetus to a nine-in-a-row chasing Celtic all of, eh, three years ago.

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Yet, the one-eyed judgments a section of the Celtic fanbase make when it comes to a board of directors that can do no right in their eyes blinds them to a simple fact. What is underpinning a huge investment in players is what has consistently underpinned the club’s market trading: fiscal sense. Even if the £37.5m figure is hit, the net spend this season won’t eclipse that from any other in the past decade. In fact, it wouldn’t be in the top two over the period. Celtic can afford to part with the guts of £40m on fees for players because that is what they took in last summer. Never before had they taken in £35m over a season, as they did during the span of 2020-21 through, principally, the departures of prized assets Odsonne Edouard and Kristoffer Ajer. The fans who interact with their board only in bad faith have never accepted that Celtic essentially spend what they earn. However, this season is only that over-arching policy in microcosm.

If the deals in the pipeline go through, their net spend under Postecoglou will be in the region of £2.5m. Their net spend in 2017-18 was £4.65m, the season before £4.9m. It is just that, in those seasons, there was relatively little movement both in incomings and outgoings – in sharp contrast to the past seven months. Assuming the £37.5m figure is hit in the coming weeks, Celtic will have forked out around £130m on transfer fees in the past decade. Across that period, with both a pandemic and sizeable increase in their wage bill to negotiate, they have accrued £145m from selling players. Hardly the stockpiling of cash that, tediously, is the accusation levelled at Celtic’s powerbrokers. At least that charge has to be parked. For the moment.

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