The attacker arrives with plenty of baggage but also lots of experience, something Celtic haven’t sought a whole lot of recently, as Craig Fowler writes
Colin Kazim-Richards does not fit the mould of a typical Celtic signing. He’s 29, already well known to various leagues around the world, and he has a chequered past as far as his character is concerned. In short, he’s not going to net much in terms of a sell-on fee.
That’s been the way for Celtic in recent seasons. The success of buying players with high upsides on the cheap and turning them into multi-million pound players - your Victor Wanyamas, Gary Hoopers and Virgil van Dijks - encouraged the board to repeat the formula. However, results have become increasingly sketchy and it hasn’t equated to success on the European stage, which, rightly or wrongly, is how onlookers have judged Celtic over the past three-and-a-half seasons in Rangers’ absence.
Success in Europe isn’t crucial to the formula, but it certainly does help. Regardless of whether your intent is to buy at the top of the market or rummage for diamonds in the rough, the number of options grow exponentially when you’re playing in the Champions League every year. In the last two seasons, with perhaps the exception of Craig Gordon and Kris Commons (and maybe Mikael Lustig), Celtic have rolled the dice with an entire team using the formula. Maybe now it’s time to balance out the squad a little more and go with players who have a little more experience, particularly at the European level. Regardless of whether the Kazim-Richards deal is a good one or not, at least it should encourage Celtic supporters that the club is getting over the tunnel vision that has influenced their scouting network.
But what of the move itself? The signing has been widely mocked by those who believe he’s below the team’s aspirations. He doesn’t have a great goal record, throughout his career, and comes with a pedigree arguably weaker than those who’ve failed at Parkhead in the past. But while people believe he will be judged on his performances in Europe, in actual fact it’ll be how he adapts to the Labrokes Premiership that will be the real test of whether he’s a good signing.
Think of it this way, look back at Celtic’s recent misadventures when trying to sign a forward to bolster their squad. Teemu Pukki, Stefan Scepovic, Lassad Nouioui, Miku, Amido Balde, Nadir Ciftci, all of these players struggled with the fundamental, which was performing week-in, week-out in domestic football. Compare these guys with the players who stood up time and again for Celtic in Europe: Kris Commons, Gary Hooper and Georgios Samaras. The former two, in particular, didn’t have great pedigrees, especially compared with some of those previously listed. What they did have, however, was a terrific consistency in domestic football. Is Gary Hooper a Champions League quality striker? If you’re a fan of Manchester United or Arsenal, you’ve got to say there’s no chance. Was he at Celtic? Absolutely. It’s because he was scoring goals every week, playing with confidence and had built up a familiarity with his team-mates. All of which allowed him to play above himself.
Kazim-Richards could easily be the next Ciftci or Scepovic. However, unlike those two his talents do fit in with how Ronny Deila likes the game to be played. The manager prefers mobile attackers, ones that will enthusiastically pressure defences high up the pitch and ruthlessly punish mistakes. The goalscoring qualities of Leigh Griffiths should make up for the new signing’s lack of proficiency should Deila manage to devise a system that can pair the two together. Besides, while there may be a lack of pedigree at Champions League level (the new signing last played in the competition in 2008) he’s got more than enough to shine in Scotland’s top flight. Any other team would salivate over someone coming straight from Feyenoord, after all.
The real issue will likely be whether he can keep himself in check. A quick Google of his recent history shows he has a penchant for undesirable behaviour, to put it mildly. With Deila already feeling the pressure, he maybe can’t afford another public row with one of his players as it could undermine his position further. Keeping the attacker in check and getting the best out of him could make or break Deila’s career at Celtic.
Time will tell whether Celtic can give Kazim-Richards the platform in which to play above himself in the same manner as Hooper did. But it doesn’t mean he should be written off before we’ve even had the chance to find out.
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