Celtic have been set an asking price of £10m by Southampton to turn their loan of Mohamed Elyounoussi into a permanent transfer, according to reports from Football Insider earlier this week.
The Norwegian winger has enjoyed a superb start to life in Glasgow following his deadline day move. He has seamlessly transitioned into Neil Lennon’s starting XI, scoring seven goals and recording six assists in 12 appearances. The manager has been quick to heap praise on the dynamic winger. He described his two-goal performance in the League Cup semi-final win over Hibs as “outstanding” and said he is “thriving” at the club.
All that has quickly endeared him to the Parkhead crowd and enhanced hopes of a record-breaking deal. On Thursday, he was named the SPFL’s player of the month for October. The fans would certainly be delighted to have him on board permanently:
Mohamed Elyounoussi 🍀
Ryan Kent 🧟♂️
Rangers paid £7m for Kent.
£10m for Elyounoussi is an absolute no brainer.
— Piece Ntcham (@TamRogi) November 20, 2019
£10m for Elyounoussi? Absolute steal. Pay it
— Kieran🍑 (@KC67___) November 21, 2019
Would £10m be good value for money?
That figure would represent a significant outlay for Celtic, eclipsing the £9m fee paid for Odsonne Edouard in 2018. Until then, it had been 18 years since they had last broken their transfer record. Doing so twice within the space of two years would mark a real change of policy, while also being indicative of the modern football world where transfer fees are regularly inflated to obscene amounts of money. The Bhoys have had to succumb to the pressures of the global market to keep themselves competitive.
The previous history of the player must be considered when deciding if that £10m sum is a sensible one. Elyounoussi has proven himself on a European and international level. He’s hit five goals in 24 caps for Norway and his Europa League performances have been influential in sealing Celtic’s early progress to the knockout stage. He opened his Celtic account against Cluj to put that game out of reach for the visitors. A threaded pass for James Forrest then set up the equaliser against Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico two weeks ago.
He has played in the Champions League for Basel and even scored against Celtic in 2015 while playing for Molde in a Europa League group stage tie. Only last summer it cost Southampton £16m to prise Elyounoussi away from Swiss champions Basel. Shaving over a third off that transfer fee could only be considered a financial success.
A wealth of wingers
There is a lot of competition for the left-wing spot at Celtic Park so is breaking their transfer record for another one a smart idea? Although Elyounoussi currently has a firm grip on the role, there are plenty of others breathing down his neck. Mikey Johnston broke into the team towards the end of last season and was highly effective at the start of this campaign. He’ll be firmly in Lennon’s thoughts on his return from injury.
Lewis Morgan and Johnny Hayes have also both featured on the left this season. Helpfully, the latter seems to be transitioning into a wing-back role given the depth of competition. Morgan may not be a fan favourite but is only in his early twenties years and could still improve. You only need to look at Ryan Christie for an example of somebody who just needs to be given a proper chance in the first team.
Then there are two rarely thought about squad members in Marian Shved and Daniel Arzani. Shved was an out-of-the-blue signing from Karpaty Lviv in January before being immediately loaned back for the second half of the season. He properly arrived at the club in June with Celtic fans getting excited over various YouTUbe highlight reels. They have been left disappointed as the Ukranian has only made two brief appearances from the subs bench since then. Despite that, Shved has insisted he has “no regrets” over the move and is happy to fight for his place. Having handed him a four-and-half-year contract, it would be foolish to cut losses so soon into the relationship.
There were big hopes for Australian winger Arzani when he arrived on a two-year loan from Manchester City in summer 2018. Disaster struck, though, when he ruptured his ACL on his debut last October and he hasn’t been seen in a Celtic shirt since. Despite that, reports in the Australian media indicate both parties are willing to extend his stay for a further year.
The youth team presents yet more options. Karamoko Dembele has been the jewel of Celtic’s academy since turning out for the under-19s as a 13-year old in 2016. An electrifying debut in the final league game of last season did little to quell the hype around him. With rumours of Chelsea showing an interest, it may be wise to begin offering Dembele some first-team opportunities or risk losing a key future asset.
Taking into account that this will almost certainly be Scott Sinclair’s last year at the club, that leaves six players fighting over one position. The main thing to consider, though, is this: are those other players as talented as Elyounoussi? On the evidence we’ve seen on the pitch, the simple answer is no. If the Norwegian can maintain the high bar he’s set for himself then it may be that several of those fringe players will have to be shipped out to facilitate the arrival of a new record signing.