Vakoun Issouf Bayo became Celtic’s third attacking signing of January. Joel Sked looks at what the club’s fans can expect.
“It is a good idea for Celtic to target him.”
Who better to give their seal of approval to the signing of Vakoun Issouf Bayo than Celtic legend Lubomir Moravcik, the Slovak who wowed the Parkhead crowd with his vision, guile and general footballing sixth sense.
The 53-year-old is better placed than most to make a judgment on the Ivorian, signed from Dunajska Streda, currently second in the Slovak Super Liga, on Tuesday for a reported £2million.
“I think he is ready to play well in Scotland. He has a lot of good qualities – he is 6ft tall, can cope with the physical side of the game, is a very good header of the ball, is quick enough and technically is excellent.” Moravcik told Evening Times earlier this month.
Bayo becomes Celtic’s third attacking recruit of the January transfer window, following Timothy Weah and Oliver Burke. On the face of it, the trio share attributes: powerful, quick, young and an abundance of promise.
Fascination surrounds Burke, signed for combined fees of nearly £30million but yet to fulfil the potential which saw him likened to Gareth Bale. Then there is Weah. A US international, brought in from PSG with the famous footballing father and possessing the utmost confidence when put in front of the cameras.
Bayo, on the other hand, is the outlier.
He arrives shrouded in mystery. Most media outlets are largely using the same photos and clips of the forward. Enter ‘Vakoun Issouf Bayo’ into Google and you are presented with about 245,000 results. That’s a lot. But pales in significance to ‘Timothy Weah’ (7.83m results) and ‘Oliver Burke’ (33.3m results).
Yet it is he who Celtic have parted with a significant sum to sign permanently, and it is he who Celtic fans should be most fascinated about.
Bayo is different to any attacking player currently on Celtic’s books. He is a striker the club haven’t had in a few seasons.
Under Brendan Rodgers the lead striker has had to be universal, scoring goals but also contributing outside the box. Moussa Dembele has been the most well-rounded of the strikers.
There are no doubts about Leigh Griffiths’ goalscoring prowess but there has always been a semblance of scepticism regarding his compatibility in a Rodgers team. Odsonne Edouard is a huge talent capable of dominating games with his pace, dribbling and physique but is young and it’s a big ask for the responsibility to weigh heavily on his shoulders.
The signing of Bayo suggests one of two things: either Rodgers has recognised the need for a penalty box striker, especially with Griffiths taking a break from football, or Celtic have identified a young player who they can mould and refine into a rounded attacker.
Previous evidence suggests the latter but the player’s goalscoring record in 2018 - 22 goals in 32 games - makes for exciting reading for Celtic fans.
• READ MORE: Timothy Weah: Why I agreed to loan move to Celtic
For the Bayo, his eyes will likely light up at the prospect of Kieran Tierney and James Forrest on the flanks. Thirteen of his goals have arrived from crosses. In this season’s Slovak Super Lig, six of his 10 strikes have been headers.
The striker takes up good positions in the box, using crafty movement and his strength to manoeuvre and create space. All 64 shots, including 24 headed efforts, came from inside the box, while his 97 touches in the area is by far the most recorded by a player in the Slovak league.
Celtic are so used to working the ball on the ground, moving around the opposition until an opportunity presents itself. Crosses are usually low and cutbacks are popular.
The arrival of Bayo gives the team a different option, another string to their already deadly bow.
His statistics this season compare favourably with the Scottish Premiership top scorer, Alfredo Morelos. He averages more shots and touches in the box per 90 minutes than the Colombian while he’d be fourth in Scotland’s top-flight for percentage of shots on target.
According to talent identification scout Fernando Campelo, who has followed the player this season, Bayo fits into the profile of a Celtic signing who can be developed into a potential large transfer fee.
“I’ve seen him in nine Slovak league games with good performance in almost every one. Young forward and quite complete, he’s fast... and has a good shot with the right.
“Technically he has room for improvement although I like that he seems to handle the movements of a striker either alone or accompanied.
“Certainly one of the best players in the Slovak league,”
However, Campelo noted that the player can be easily provoked and an improvement in both his decision making and temperament is required. He missed Dunajska Streda’s last game due to suspension handed down by the league’s sports court following an incident in a previous game.
Celtic have been stung on a number of occasions in recent years when recruiting forwards. However, Bayo is an intriguing signing and an intriguing talent. One Celtic fans should be excited to see and one who should provide the team with an increased edge in the second half of the season.