‘I want to become the best striker in the world’ - Celtic striker Odsonne Edouard’s bold claim
“I would like to become the best striker in the world. That’s it. One of the best strikers anyway,” said the Frenchman through an interpreter as he celebrated an accolade earned on the back of an outstanding spell in which he has plundered seven goals in his past five outings – three of which produced scoring doubles. “I don’t know when that will happen. I live day to day and I enjoy my life. We will see in time. We will see.”
In keeping with his effortless, elegant unhurried playing style, Edouard isn’t in a rush to find a new footballing home that will make his lofty objective possible.
The reality is that it is difficult to see how the player, or the Scottish champions, will be in a position to resist the offers guaranteed to be wafted their way in the summer. The forward, a £9 million steal from Paris Saint-Germain in the close season of 2018 that followed a season on loan in Glasgow, is such a special talent that his 32 goals across this campaign – ten of these bagged in five outings for the French under-21s – do not do full justice to his array of attributes.
He smiled and offered a “don’t know” to how much he would be worth in the open market after Celtic banked £25m for Kieron Tierney last summer, and £20m for Moussa Dembele a year earlier. No bid under £35m should be entertained, but that is for others than the man himself to ponder. Edouard is simply content, for now, to play and grow in his current environment. As he does with defenders, he neatly sidestepped the question as to whether he would consider extending a contract that has two and a half years to run.
“I am very happy here and I enjoy myself,” he said. “For now it’s still two years on my contract and I am more focused on the five months that we have left for the rest of this season and the two titles [the league and the Scottish Cup] we are competing for. And then we will see what happens after.”
Edouard has rightly been talked about as Celtic’s best striker since Henrik Larsson. He is so completely different from Dembele, there is certainly a debate to be had about which of these French opposition-players is more effective. But it is unquestionable that he is revered in a fashion no Celtic striker has been since the peerless Swede. “It’s very flattering [to be compared to Larsson] but I try not to listen too much to that so that I can focus on the team and helping them to win titles,” he said. “Henrik Larsson is a Celtic legend – when I was little he was one of the best players in Europe, so it’s amazing that some people compare me to him.”
With Larsson, Edouard certainly shares a cold-blooded streak in front of goal. The former PSG man, though, is phlegmatic in all aspects of the game in a manner that sets him apart from just about any Celtic striker that has gone before. Anger is an emotion he simply does not articulate on the pitch. “When I play football I can’t really get angry. It is a pleasure,” said the French Guiana-born forward. “I’m a human being, so of course, I get nervous sometimes but being calm is one of my strengths – that’s part of my character. It’s not necessarily a quality a striker needs, everyone is different. But in my case it helps me a lot.”
Edouard makes plain that the “objective” of this season is to lead the club to a fourth consecutive treble, Neil Lennon’s men looking to retain their seven-point lead in the Premiership when hosting Hearts this evening. And he is equally forthright about the effect that the derby defeat at home by Rangers in the final game before the winter break had on Celtic. He suggests it is no mere coincidence that performance levels have been ratcheted up in a blistering spell of seven straight victories post-shutdown that have been underpinned by the lethal partnership he has forged with Leigh Griffiths as Lennon has utilised a previously little deployed two-prong central attack.
“The defeat against Rangers did us more good than harm,” Edouard said with admirable candour. “We had to question ourselves, but, once we returned from Dubai, we knew we had to bounce back and that it would be hard to do so, but right now it’s going well.”
For Edouard, “life is good” in Glasgow. Mercifully, he has been spared being on the receiving end of the sort of racism that depressingly appears once more to be infecting football on a regular basis. “Personally, I have never had any experience of that. If I had, then you would all know,” he said. “But I haven’t had it and I don’t get involved in issues that don’t really concern me.”