A recurring theme on this blog is that signing strikers is a perilous endeavour, impossible even, for various reasons. Whether it’s simply supply and demand (strikers of course being the most in-demand position), the logistical closeness to the billions of England, that £6m these days can’t get you a John Hartson, or that club-by-club, scouting networks have improved exponentially across Europe in recent years…
There’s also the fallacy that it’s a first-come first-served market. No, players and agents are much savvier (read: greedier) than that. Acting quickly has its advantages, but nothing would stop, say, Aron Johannsen moving to an elite level once discovered.
While Celtic have made fantastic business in other areas of the pitch (Virgil Van Dijk, Victor Wanyama, etc) forwards are a whole different kettle of fish, with the sorry record including Marc-Antoine Fortune, Mo Bangura, Amido Balde, Daryl Murphy… enough said.
Celtic have attempted various ploys to get the right man. The signings tend to fall into familiar categories:
- “Try-before-you-buy” – Georgios Samaras, Pavel Brozek, John Guidetti, Miku
- “Costly established” – Fortune, Gary Hooper, Teemu Pukki, Stefan Scepovic
- “Cheap gambles” – Hólmbert Friðjónsson, Tony Watt, Lassad Nouioui, Balde
Alas, even the costly established players (barring Hooper) tended to have mild scoring records. The other exceptions are Anthony Stokes and Leigh Griffiths. This makes for a conspicuous pattern – that strikers who scored before Celtic, tended to continue scoring at Celtic. This could also be applied to the likes of Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Scott McDonald.
Finding the goalscorers (at whatever level) is one thing. Being able to attract them is another – as found in the previous piece on strikers, China has emerged as a richer and aggressive rival to teams in non-elite countries.
The class of 2015/16
As usual, the stipulations are the same – players under 25, with the best scoring record based in less-favourable (but not completely obscure) competitions. So the likes of Scandinavia, the lower tiers of England, Spain, Germany, and the main leagues of most smaller European countries, the USA and Australia.
And remember – if you don’t like baseless (pointless) transfer discussion, then put down the newspaper and close your web browser as these things are not for you.
Of course it’s impossible to determine whether any of these players are within Celtic’s budget. We can take an educated guess on many (for example, Jason Cummings) while one or two may plainly be off-limits. Having scored regularly in the top tier of France and being a big strong forward, Sebastian Heller already appears set for a bigger club (Ajax have been suggested).
Jamie MacLaren and Cyle Larin have fabulous scoring records in increasingly competitive leagues, both barely 22, and may be at the right price-point.
The demand at this level of player is apparent, with, for example Lukas Spalvis and Simeone Ganz (son of Maurizio Ganz) already being snapped up.
In terms of alternatives in style to Griffiths, Leon De Kogel and Rangelo Janga – both 6′ 4″ and scoring well in a league perhaps on a par with the Scottish Premier league – would be interesting prospects.
There are young goalscorers at a decent enough level out there. Whether in practice they are within budget, good enough, or indeed on Celtic’s radar is another matter.
The suggestion of Danny Graham (in rumour columns) seems uninspiring, given most poor-goalscorers tend to perpetuate that form in Scotland. And those forwards who score less by design – the Fortune style “bring others into the game” – don’t tend to last long at Celtic.
Regardless, the priority for new manager Brendan Rodgers is dependable competition for Griffiths, and it’s unclear if Anthony Stokes is considered in this brackets. Jack Aitchison famously broke records on his debut last week, but at 16 is unlikely to be in first team plans.