What £6 Million Could Buy Celtic
On Friday, Glasgow's Evening Times reported that Celtic manager Neil Lennon said he still has £6 million at his disposal this January.
To the Hoops, that is a lot of money.
It’s just less than the amount they received for Stiliyan Petrov in 2005 and just more than what Lennon cost the club as a player back in 2000. It’s the same amount the club paid for Chris Sutton that same year and for John Hartson a year later.
For a large chunk of that £6 million, though, the Hoops acquired the player now known only as Rafael (please see here for details).
In short, that amount of money could buy Celtic a future legend, or it could buy them Scheidt.
On the other hand, a combined £6 million has procured Celtic an admirable collective of Victor Wanyama (£900,000), Henrik Larsson (£600,000), Shunsuke Nakamura (£2.5 million), Lubomir Moravcik (£300,000), Artur Boruc (£1.5 million) and Kris Commons (£300,000).
So the price tag isn't necessarily indicative of quality, and neither is buying from abroad. But which route should Celtic take? And which is more likely?
Here, we take a look at the ways Lennon could spend his £6 million and give them marks out of 10 for probability.
Recent successes: Scott Brown (from Hibs), Gary Hooper (Scunthorpe Utd), Kris Commons (Derby)
Recent failures: Daryl Murphy (Sunderland), Josh Thompson (Stockport), Willo Flood (Dundee Utd)
By nature, acquiring players from other Scottish clubs has sometimes been viewed as taking the easy option. It is not, however, a route to be underestimated.
On the surface, the benefits of buying from Scotland or the rest of Britain and Ireland seem obvious. The players know the club well and generally—a couple of English clubs aside—understand that there isn't really a bigger team to play for in Britain. It helps that signing from inside Scotland itself is usually cost-effective (the principal exception being current captain Brown, who cost £4.4 million from Hibs).
And right now there is a plethora of talent in Scotland alone.
Exciting youngsters such as Dundee United's Ryan Gauld and St Johnstone's Stevie May could be justifiably considered a safer option than a relatively unknown quantity from abroad. However, while these reasons ostensibly hold true, they don't necessarily indicate that the player will be a success at Parkhead just because he's more familiar with the club.
For every Brown, Hooper and Commons, there's a Murphy, Thompson and Flood.
Recent successes: Victor Wanyama (from Beerschot), Emilio Izaguirre (CD Motagua)
Recent failures: Freddie Ljungberg (Chicago Fire), Efrain Juarez (UNAM)
Celtic's transfer strategy revolves more around unearthing foreign talent than domestic. For this reason, it is more likely that Lennon's £6 million will be spent on players from outside Britain and Ireland.
It's hard to argue with the recent results of this policy: seven of the club's 10 most lucrative sales have been players from outside Britain and Ireland. The most successful was the £12.5 million summer sale of Kenyan midfielder Wanyama to Southampton—just two years after his £900,000 move from Belgian side Beerschot.
Even South Korean midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng, who was never really able to cement a regular starting spot during his time at Parkhead, was sold to Swansea in 2012 for £6 million—about three times what the club had paid for him three years earlier.
Several Low-Cost Players
Recent successes: Fraser Forster (from Newcastle), Mikael Lustig (Rosenborg), Joe Ledley (Cardiff)
Recent failures: Jos Hooiveld (Copenhagen), Zheng Zhi (Charlton)
Recent history shows that this is by far the most likely way Lennon will spend his £6 million.
It's been almost five years since Celtic last spent more than £3 million on one player—when Marc-Antoine Fortune arrived from AS Nancy for £3.8 million in July 2009.
Again, the logic is hard to argue with. Spending the money on two or three players limits the chance of it being wasted on one "failure".
Lennon's track record is generally impressive when it comes to picking up quality players relatively cheaply.
Recent England cap Forster cost just £2 million, while first-team standouts Lustig and Ledley were signed up on free transfers.
It is, however, the nature of Celtic's transfer strategy of buying young and selling for a profit a few years later that, from time to time, they do procure players who simply fail to adapt to the Scottish game.
One Quality Player
Recent successes: John Hartson (from Coventry), Chris Sutton (Chelsea)
Recent failures: Eyal Berkovic (West Ham), Rafael Scheidt (Gremio)
Buying big doesn't necessarily mean buying quality, and buying quality doesn't necessarily mean buying success. There is always the risk that the club could be throwing away what is—to them—a massive amount of money if a player doesn't live up to his price tag.
Nevertheless, Celtic have a decent record when it comes to spending big on one player.
The club's three most expensive acquisitions were all a success. The £6 million purchases of Sutton and Hartson, as well as the £5.75 million outlay for Lennon, in the early 2000s have been justified by the performances, trophies and legacy all three left behind.
Rafael represents something on the complete opposite end of the scale, and his name is now synonymous with the dangers of spending big on one man.
Berkovic was probably somewhere in the middle of that scale.
The Israeli was by no means terrible in the Hoops, but neither was his impact equal to his transfer fee of £5.75 million, which is the same amount the club paid for Lennon.
It's widely thought that Celtic's days of spending upward of £6 million on one player have passed. It is extremely unlikely that Lennon will challenge that perception with his current budget, despite his recent insistence, as reported by STV, that it is not beyond the club to do so.