Why the time was right for Oliver Ntcham's Celtic au revoir

There seemed something uncomfortably fitting about the plane jetting Celtic’s Olivier Ntcham to Marseille to finalise a six-month loan agreement ending up grounded for a period of time on deadline day.

Olivier Ntcham wrapped up to deal with a Scottish winter that, among other things, the talented but lackadaisical midfielder seemed averse to during an exasperating Celtic career. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Ultimately, the French midfielder’s career in Scotland never fully took off. Although it wasn’t technical problems, but application issues accounting for that. The flight hitch proved no impediment to the 24-year-old sealing the deal in his homeland, which includes an option to buy, he has long craved. And the details of it could also tell a tale of the lack of progress made since the undoubtedly gifted Ntcham moved from Genoa in July 2017. That transfer came at a £4.5million cost – the very same sum Celtic will bank if impresses Marseille sufficiently for them to recruit him permanently.

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There is every possibility a focused Ntcham could make that happen. He has the potential to be a top class performer in possessing quick feet, a delightful touch, vision and impressive physicality. He was that on occasion. However – his glorious finish in the Rome win over Lazio last November apart – from the moment his friend and countryman Moussa Dembele departed in September 2018, he has performed as if mentally in football’s departure zone.

Neil Lennon gave him every opportunity across the early part of this nosedive of a season for Celtic to rediscover his mojo to marry to mercurial, but potentially magisterial, talents. Ntcham never did, though, and played too often as a motivationally-challenged performer who seemed to wish he was elsewhere. It is better for all concerned that now is the case. And that he doesn’t have use for his return ticket.

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