A loan signing may not have been best case scenario in the minds of the fans. But it still ensures the acquisition of a talented player with big upside. If Charly Musonda lives up to his reputation during his stay in Glasgow’s East End - and the new five-year contract handed to him by Chelsea in December of last year would suggest so - then this will be looked upon as a cracking deal.
Though Celtic supporters would obviously prefer to have him “permanently”, or at least a player of that ilk, it’s a word which barely qualifies any more when describing a footballer’s ties to one club. Eighteen months is only six fewer than the time Virgil van Dijk and Victor Wanyama spent at Celtic Park. While they won’t recoup a huge transfer fee like they did with those two stars, assuming Musonda shines they’ll at least have themselves a rental bargain.
There are wages to be paid on top of a fee for his loan, so it’s not without risk. No transfer is. His space in the squad will still be a burden should he fail to shine in a Celtic shirt. But with loan deals there isn’t the PR fallout which hovers over an expensive transfer flop, and there’s the likelihood of working out an agreement where the player returns to his parent club if things aren’t going according to plan. After all, Chelsea wouldn’t want their asset stagnating on someone else’s bench.
As for the player himself, he’s an entertaining sort who should pacify the fans’ hunger for new faces. He absolutely loves to run with the ball and should chalk up a few highlight reel moments against bewildered Scottish Premiership defenders. When on loan at Real Betis for the 2015/16 season, only Karim Yoda of Getafe attempted more dribbles per 90 minutes across the whole of La Liga. Musonda’s 6.34 dribbles per game was a higher mark than the likes of Neymar (5.23) and Lionel Messi (4.25).
Not only should he be a breath of fresh air for the fans, his presence could re-energise the Celtic dressing room. At his best across the attacking triumvirate supporting the loan striker, it’s fair to say he’s got enough competition for a place in the side. On paper, you’d have been forgiven for thinking it was the one area Celtic didn’t need to strengthen.
Delve a little deeper and you’ll see that, while James Forrest and Callum McGregor have arguably improved this season, there’s been noticeable regression from Stuart Armstrong and Scott Sinclair, though the latter has looked sharp since returning from the winter break. Add to the injury troubles of Tom Rogic and Patrick Roberts, not to mention Jonny Hayes, and it’s clear this is a part of the team that should benefit from a new, exciting addition.
While Celtic are going to win the title, and perhaps a domestic treble, there hasn’t quite been the same spark as last season. Musonda is the type of player capable of igniting that.