Amid the chaos and calamity endured by the club across the early weeks of 2021, it has almost been overlooked that we are now in the final days of the January transfer window. With the title gone, the significance of the transfer period no longer centres on who Celtic might attract. Instead, it revolves around the potential to start the rebuilding process for next season. Specifically, maximising the value of players destined to play no part in it.
It would have once seemed heretical to consider parting with Odsonne Edouard in the middle of a live campaign. Yet, now there is a growing belief there would be no sense retaining the services of the French striker if a viable buyer could be found in the final week of the window. No given, admittedly. Edouard simply hasn’t been the same player this season as the rampaging frontman who was utterly mesmerising bagged 29 goals in the, abridged, previous one. Indeed, Lennon was surely talking about the 23-year-old when he conceded recently that certain members of his squad had a fuzzy focus across the early stages of a cursed campaign. The Irishman attributed that to a number of them feeling they had “done their bit” at the club, and that the time had come to move on to new challenges.
A season to forget
Across the early months of the season, Edouard played as if his head had been turned more completely than Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist. Yet, that perhaps doesn’t take full account of the issues he has encountered. A series of niggly injuries and testing positive for Covid-19 – as he did while on international duty with the France Under-21s in October – would put most players still in the early years of their senior career off their stride.
As a result, though, he just does not appear as integral as his outstanding abilities made him once seem. Indeed, a four-year stint in a middling European league is possibly more than it is advisable to attempt to squeeze out of any performer with the undoubted talent to light up an environment with footballing standards and salary riches of an altogether more dazzling wattage. Within 18 months at Parkhead, Virgil van Dijk was beginning to sleepwalk through games. It was the same during the two-year stints of Moussa Dembele and Victor Wanyama. Edouard has given much more substantial service than any of these gifted marketable assets through spending a season on loan before his £10m more from Paris-Saint Germain in the summer of 2018.
Keeping him was right – but what value now?
It was undeniably right for Celtic to retain him in the summer as they embarked on their all-consuming bid for a record tenth title. But the landscape is entirely altered now that they are guaranteed to fail in that quest. Edouard is in the final 18 months of his deal. If Celtic have to wait to sell him until he enters his final year come the summer, the fee commanded naturally will be diminished. If he can’t raise a gallop with nothing much to play for beyond the Scottish Cup, it could further depress his value. Furthermore, as the result of the sell-on structure of the deal with the French club, 40% of any sum banked for him beyond the £10m he cost will head into the coffers of PSG.
It might be possible for Celtic to entice a bid of around the £20m-mark for him in the coming days. That will reduce to around £15m in the summer. Failure to challenge for the Premiership means Celtic effectively can forget about raking in £30m in Champions League riches next season. Facing three rounds in the hazardous non-champions route, which could pit them against some of the best sides in France, Portugal, Russia and the Netherlands, will surely put paid to any hopes of a place among the elite. Against this backdrop, a £5m difference in the sum accrued from cashing in on their biggest asset is considerable. Especially when they will be looking to provide a new manager with as sizable a kitty as possible in order for him to make his own imprint on the side.
Leicester, Vardy and the Rodgers link
Covid losses might have clipped the wings of even the monied clubs of the English Premier League, but £20m for a player as potentially as electric as Edouard would still represent small beer. Much was made of Edouard’s switch to the Stellar Group agency this month. Less was made about the fact that a certain Brendan Rodgers is also on their books. The Leicester City manager was warm about the endowments of a player he signed for Celtic when asked about possible striker targets the other week. The Midlands club have an, outside, shot at the title in currently lying third. Their over-reliance on 34-year-old predator Jamie Vardy remains the factor that could yet derail Rodgers’ desire to remain “disruptors” among the bigger boys, and with that clinch a top-four spot to earn them a Champions League place.
Vardy is out for the next few weeks in requiring a hernia operation. His understudy Kelechi Iheanacho hasn’t scored at all in the league this season, though he bagged three goals as Leicester topped their Europa League group. Meanwhile, the club have not signed a senior striker since the summer of 2017. Rodgers could make a powerful case for warranting the funds for an immediate Edouard bid. The precarious positions in which other English top-flight clubs such as Arsenal and Chelsea find themselves means they could also be forced into the market for a new centre-forward to salvage seasons. If Celtic were smart they would deal with their current harsh realities and alert any suitors of such a performer in this window to the availability of Edouard. In an age of regret for the Parkhead club, they could rue not doing so.
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