A free transfer for a 31-year-old in the form of Youssouf Mulumbu didn’t exactly match up to Celtic supporters’ demand for a “big-name” permanent signing in the closing days of the transfer window. However, the midfielder who excelled in a short spell for Kilmarnock last season is confident that in time he can fit that bill for the club’s faithful.
“Big names happen when you play well,” said the Democratic Republic of Congo international. “I can be a big name in a few months if I score against Rangers and play some good games. It’s all about your performances. I know there is pressure on the team and club but I’m ready for that. I’ve got experience and ability to play. I’m ready and excited to be in the squad.”
Mulumbu has sufficient belief in his abilities to believe he did not take a risk in biding his time during the window before deciding where he would resume his career following his departure from Rugby Park in May.
“I was really clear with my agent that I wanted to play at the highest level possible,” said the former Paris Saint-Germain, West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City performer. “The highest level for me was the English Premier League but if it didn’t happen, the other option was Celtic.
“I can say I’m lucky to be here. But at the same time, my performances brought me. So it wasn’t really a gamble because I knew something big was going to happen for me. Now I just have to show why I am a Celtic player.
“I first heard of Celtic’s interest four weeks ago. My agent called me and he had spoken to the board so after that I had to have a chat with the manager. When a manager like Brendan Rodgers calls then you don’t hesitate. Once that happened it was: ‘Let’s go!’
“Then it was the longest two weeks of my life until the deal was finally done. I had to be patient but I was texting my agent every hour, but I’m looking forward to it now. I’m 31 but I still have the legs – once you hit 30 in football people think you’re old but I proved last season that I can help this team.
“I was living in Glasgow before. I know the city. I have experience of the pressure around this team. I am ready for that challenge. I know I am going to do great for Celtic.”
Mulumbu recognises the debt of gratitude he owes to Steve Clarke and Kilmarnock, his former West Brom manager giving him the opportunity to get going again following an unproductive 18 months at Carrow Road. Indeed, he announced himself with a first goal to deliver a 1-0 defeat on Celtic in early February.
“I have a huge respect for Steve Clarke,” Mulumbu said. “I always say ‘thank you’ to the people who help me and I think Kilmarnock were great for me. So I contacted him to thank him for what he did for me and he said he was looking forward to seeing me on 26 September.
“I think every member of the Kilmarnock squad called me along with the manager, the kit man and some fans. I don’t know how they had the number. It was great. They sent me messages of congratulation. I am happy because when you do well in the team and they recognise it ,it is [a good] part of football.”
The player knows he will have to be “sensible” and “patient” to force his way into Rodgers’ side.
“My talks with the manager were really clear,” he added. “I’m aware of all the players here. It’s a big club and there is always competition. If you show up well in training and on the pitch, then you are going to get your chance. I’m here to help the young lads like Olivier Ntcham and Callum McGregor. I know Scott Brown very well.
“I can play in different positions, which is an advantage. Last year I played No 10, behind the striker, I played No 8, I can play No 6, a holding midfielder. There are a couple of positions I can play. It depends on where the manager wants to play me. Does he want to play 4-4-2 or 4-3-3? I can adapt, with my experience. So when the gaffer calls, I’ll be ready.”