Odsonne Edouard once again underlined his importance to Celtic with another starring role in their 4-0 thrashing of Aberdeen – and showed why they would be mad to cash in on him before the end of the season at the very earliest.
According to recent reports, scouts from around Europe have been tracking the 21-year old ahead of the January transfer window. Edouard’s opening goal on Sunday was his 11th of the season and heralded another dominant display of pace, power and precision. He is already halfway to matching his goal tally from last season and it isn’t even Halloween yet.
— Celtic Goals (@CelticGoal) October 27, 2019
His goalscoring spree for the France under-21’s – nine goals in four caps – has done nothing to dispel some Celtic fans fears that he will be the next to follow the well-trodden and lucrative route away from Parkhead to the English Premier League or beyond. Neil Lennon has been quick to shoot down these rumours, firmly stating that Edouard will not leave the club. If the summer transfer saga with Kieran Tierney proved anything, though, it’s that every player has his price.
Edouard more than just goals
Purely in on-field terms, Edouard’s influence far outstrips that of Tierney. His all-round play has been just as important to Lennon’s side blistering start to the season as his goals. Good combination play with Ryan Christie led to the equaliser against Lazio and his neat cutback for Jeremie Frimpong allowed the young full-back to claim Celtic’s second on Sunday. Edouard’s six assists are the most of anyone in the squad.
The Bhoys are in the fortunate position of not being solely reliant on only one or two striking options for their goals. Indeed, it’s midfielder Christie who leads their charts for the year with wingers James Forrest and Mo Elyounoussi helping to share the load.
But Edouard is the focal point around which Celtic’s technicians work their magic.
Inferior back-up a problem
The lack of quality back-up options is another roadblock for any European giant hoping to tempt Celtic into selling their star striker. Vakoun Issouf Bayo has been the most regular alternative this season, starting twice and making a further 10 appearances from the bench. Bayo cost the club £2m in January from Slovakian side Dunajska Streda, but Hoops fans have so far seen little return for that investment.
A brief appearance as a substitute against Kilmarnock was the only glimpse they got of the Ivorian last season. His solitary goal for the club came in a routine 5-0 win over Partick Thistle in the League Cup. While a lot of strikers would say they are at their best when allowed a consistent run of games, Bayo has shown nothing in his appearances to suggest he can match the output of Edouard.
Then there is the quandary over Leigh Griffiths. After taking a hiatus from football last year to deal with a series of personal issues, he reappeared for pre-season. When goals in each of Celtic’s opening two league games of the season followed, hopes were raised that he could recapture the sort of form that saw him bag 40 goals in 2015/16.
But fitness problems have once again seen Griffiths fade from the scene: he hasn’t been included in any of the last nine matchday squads. Lennon hinted last week that Griffiths is close to a return which would help reduce the load on Edouard. Fully fit and focused, he still has what it takes to reclaim his spot as arguably the best striker in the country. However, aged 29 and having missed so much football over the past year, there must be huge reservations about his ability to do so.
Departing from their leading man – even for a fee that could eclipse the £19.7m brought in by fellow French striker Moussa Dembele – is therefore not an option. Edouard is irreplaceable, particularly at a stage of the season where it’s likely Celtic will still be fighting on three fronts.
The situation will likely have to be addressed again in the summer and Celtic fans are not naïve enough to believe Edouard is here for the long-term future. The last decade has seen the Scottish game dwindle to an even lesser financial standing amongst the elite league of Europe. That leaves the Treble Treble winners being treated as merely a stepping stone by players with grander ambitions than sweeping up every domestic honour on offer. If Celtic are to continue achieving their own ambitions, though, keeping hold of Edouard is a necessity.