This summer has been a delight for all football fans; a flood of action (sometimes as many as three games per day!), sublime goals, a few startling surprises and most enjoyably of all England being dispatched in disgraceful fashion by minnows Iceland – a nation with more active volcanoes than professional footballers. In the background of all this however Celtic and Brendan Rodgers have quietly and astutely gone about their business, trimming the fat from the squad, analysing targets that can improve our chances on both domestic and continental fronts and, as of yesterday, capturing potential stars of tomorrow, in the form of France youth international Moussa Dembele. More, however, can always be done and below you will find 5 players that have appeared in the European Championships that I believe can not only improve the squad but are also (perhaps) attainable.
Birkir Bjarnason. Iceland and Basle.
The midfielder, who has largely operated on the left flank in this tournament, has been an irrepressible bundle of blonde energy, blitzing passed opponents with a lovely blend of skill and power. He also demonstrated in the historic win against England that he is supremely confident in possession, able to receive passes, sometimes in dangerous areas, with composure and intelligence. He looks like the sort of dynamic, pliable player that could prove invaluable to Rodgers, with the ability to improve our luck in the Champions League, but also the mind-set and physique to compete in the rough and tumble Scottish Premier League. At 28 he does not really fit the youth orientated hiring policy, carrying almost no notable sell-on value, however, he could aid the likes of Brown and Lustig in becoming a guiding example to the large swathes of young talent at the club. With just two remaining years on his contract with the Swiss side he should not command an astronomic fee.
Jeff Hendrick, Republic of Ireland and Derby.
The Derby County midfielder, looking extremely like a Game of Thrones extra, has excelled at these Championships, looking far more impressive than his current standard of footballing life would lead you to believe. The 24-year-old has looked assured of his ability, even unleashing a few unerring drives that have been unlucky not to find the back of the net. I think, operating in a midfield three, alongside Brown and Bitton but behind an attacking trio of Roberts, Griffiths and new boy Dembele, Hendrick could look really formidable. Considering he only has two years remaining on his deal and the new manager at Pride Park is none other than Bond villain himself Nigel Pearson, it is not unreasonable to think that the Irish midfielder would wish to try his luck north of the border, I mean who wants to play for a man who looks like he will throttle any player silly enough to misplace a pass?
Shane Duffy, Republic of Ireland and Blackburn Rovers
An Irishman signing for Celtic? No way. Aside from the obvious cultural links that would help pave the way for such a move and that he has not been shy in expressing his fandom for the club, there have already been murmurs that a signing may be imminent. His introduction revolutionised Ireland’s participation in these Championships; O’Neill’s decision to replace the ageing John O’Shea was instrumental in getting the crucial victory over Italy. Although he did give away a crucial penalty in the last 16 against France, until that point he looked as though he was born to play at this level. With a price tag rumoured to be around the £2million mark he is easily affordable. I also think he could act as the iron-fist to Erik Sviatchenko’s silk glove, forming a defensive pairing of such strength not seen since the days of Mjallby and Blade.
Florin Andone, Romania and Cordoba.
Whilst it is true that the last striker Celtic bought from Spain’s second tier, Stefan Scepovic, was a complete flop, I harbour hopes that Andone may differ. Sparingly used by a mediocre Romanian side is hardly the glowing sign of quality, however, when the powerful forward did enter the fray I was impressed. He looked powerful, mobile, technically competent and despite coming off the back of a hectic domestic season he looked fresh. In short he looked like the type of player most assumed we would be getting when we captured Nadir Çiftçi. If manager Anghel Iordănescu was a bit braver and played Andone alongside the more experienced Bogdan Stancu then perhaps we would have seen Romania make a jaunt into the knock-out section. Not a potential signing to revolutionise the club, but a decent striker that could provide a healthy and inexpensive alternative to Leigh Griffiths, especially if Dembele is utilised as a winger.
Bartosz Kapustka, Poland and Cracovia
I have to admit this deal looks unlikely. Kapustka, who has operated largely as the Poles wildcard, has impressed all who have watched him. Adept on either flank as well as centrally, I have been captivated by his serene ability to glide over the turf, elegantly avoiding the trappings of the opposition. What Kapustka also brings to the table is a real air of aggression. A snarling, winning aggression as opposed to Cristiano Ronaldo’s petulant explosions. It is to be believed that some of Europe’s wealthiest clubs, in some of the best advertised leagues in the world, are evaluating the youngster, however you never know, the work being done by Rodgers is generating a real aura of excitement and with the potential attraction of Champions League football and the chance to tick “competing in an Old Firm” of a bucket list, there are reasons to opt for life in the East End of Glasgow. An outside bet.
So there are the five players that look as though they fit into the confines of Celtic’s signing abilities; talented enough that they can improve the side, yet not so well known or outrageously gifted that they would be prohibitively expensive.