Then there was one: Matt O'Riley loses two friends from Celtic team as he reveals closeness with duo

Celtic's Carl Starfelt (L) Jota and Matt O'Riley (R) with the Scottish Cup last season.Celtic's Carl Starfelt (L) Jota and Matt O'Riley (R) with the Scottish Cup last season.
Celtic's Carl Starfelt (L) Jota and Matt O'Riley (R) with the Scottish Cup last season.
The professional and the personal swirls around the mind of Matt O’Riley when digesting Carl Starfelt’s apparently imminent departure from Celtic.

The Swedish centre-back, a central figure in the club claiming five of six domestic trophies subsequent to his summer 2021 arrival in a £4million deal from Rubin Kazan,, is understood to be on the verge of a move to Celta Vigo. Which makes O’Riley, a stand-out in Celtic’s Premiership opening day 4-2 victory at home to Ross County, feel a little delicate owing to the previous high profile departure from the treble winners this summer.

“I think [I’ll miss him as a pal as well as a team-mate]. Probably more so as a pal, to be honest … me, Carl and Jota were quite close. So the trio has been destroyed. Then there was one … but I have enough friends here, so I’m not going to feel sorry for myself. Change is part of football, it’s part of life. Especially at a club like Celtic where the demands to play are so high. We have brought Maik [Nawrocki] in, we have Cam [Cameron Carter-Vickers], Scalesy [Liam Scales], we have Welshy [Stephen Welsh], we have a lot of depth in that position. That is positive and what you need at a club like this when you play so many games. I am not sure what the club will do, whether they bring someone else in. But from my perspective Carl has been a really good servant to the club and I think we should appreciate that.’

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O’Riley, meanwhile, is appreciating the freedom given to him by new manager Brendan Rodgers. His display in the success over the Highland side, in which he scored, rivalled the contribution from David Tunrbull, who he delighted in being given a start to prove his worth. The thoughtful Englishman responded to the tactical changes introduced by the returning manager as he helped himself to a sparkling finish, and believes the best use of him may have been recognised by the returning Irishman. Even as his selflessness meant he derived more satisfaction from setting up Turnbull for his second than finding the net himself. A fact that leads him to believe he has to be more blinkered in forward areas.

“It was a slightly different role for me,” continued the Dane. “I’m kind of a little bit more involved in build up deeper with a licence to go forward. It’s probably my favourite position and probably where I am most effective and can help the team most. So I am grateful to be able to show that. For me personally I thrive a bit more when I am coming on to the game. I am not saying I can’t play the higher role well. But when I can see the play happen I can make runs off of other people’s movements and that’s probably where I’m best.

“I also like defensively going back to help as well. I think that is something I have improved since I have been at the club [the past 18 months]. Playing in Callum [McGregor’s holding] role last season probably improved me as an all round player and physically I am in a better place than I was last season as well. Still a long way to go but things are starting to come together.”