Exorbitant sums of money have been bandied about in connection with Celtic’s two young stars Kieran Tierney and Moussa Dembele. Celtic fans have been understandably downtrodden to see the two gems linked with moves away before Parkhead has seen their peak, while the rest of Scottish football has guffawed and sniggered at the sums suggested, unaware that this method of thinking will inevitable end up hurting their club of choice further down the road when they are forced to sell their prized assets.
Tierney and Dembele are worth a fortune and here is why.
Let’s start with the man of the moment, Moussa Dembele. The Frenchman has dazzled fans with his strength, composure and all-round natural brilliance. Chelsea have been the latest suitors with a touted fee of over £40million rumoured to be on the horizon. His value has been exacerbated thanks to a change in the way top sides play. Gone are the days of the 4-4-2, where a partnership could be formed, helping to negate the weaknesses in individuals. The most common variation of this was the “big-man, little-man” combo. Think of Heskey and Owen, Shearer and Martins and closer to home Sutton and Larsson. Nowadays it is far more fashionable to play a variation of the 4-3-3, where a central striker is augmented by a pair of attacking wide men.
This style of play leaves very little room for weaknesses in the central striker. He needs to; hold up the ball and link up well with other attacking players, close down the opposition, provide a presence in both penalty areas and most crucially, they also need to chip in with their fair share of goals. As we all know, there are very few people in the world capable of providing a side with all these attributes. Moussa Dembele falls, without doubt, into this bracket.
When you watch Dembele play it is frightening to think he has only just left his teenage years, he carries himself with the authority and, at times, the arrogant swagger of a man that knows for a certainty that he will score. The back-to-back hatrick against St Johnstone and Inverness Caledonian Thistle have solidified how good the youngster is.
The proposed £40million fee will buy a terrific player, we all know that, but it also buys an almost immeasurable amount of potential. How good could this guy be at 27? How good can he be when he is fully developed physically and emotionally, when he understands his position as well as Peter Lawell knows how to make a profit? This guy, with the right guidance, will climb to the very highest level in the sport. He is a phenomenon.
Someone whose star has shone that little bit duller, thanks to Dembele’s brilliance, is Kieran Tierney. The left-back has returned from his injury induced absence and immediately slotted back into the first eleven without breaking a sweat. The teenagers drive and enthusiasm provides Brendan Rodgers’ men with another attacking outlet and is a huge reason why the side has continued to find ways to break down stubborn opponents. Tierney’s ability to support and surpass Scott Sinclair has been one of the most pulse raising aspects of this sparkling Celtic side.
Fullbacks in the last decade have evolved from static guardians of their own goals, to auxiliary wingers. The demand for them to be triple-lunged juggernauts capable of sprinting over 12K every single outing, whilst also having the technical assurance to make a difference in the final third, has seen their price sky rocket.
Now this may be a potentially hyperbolic statement, but I do not think there is a full back in Britain that has a better end product than Kieran Tierney. Athletes are easy to come by in sport, but someone who wields brain as well as brawn is invaluable. This is Tierney’s greatest strength. When he gets in those advanced, congested areas, he nearly always makes the correct decision; be it a cut back, a driven cross or even a speculative effort on goal. The fact he is a born and bred Celtic fan plays into the club’s hands – he will want to see the club get the best possible deal.
As with Dembele his value will only go up the more adept he gets at understanding the mechanics of his game. It is hard to think of a Scottish player who bore this stratospheric level of promise.
It’s important to remember that this is a high-water mark in terms of supporting Celtic, a treble, a whitewash and a season that can be ended with the duel monikers of “Champions” and “Invincibles”. The most enjoyable aspect is that there is the real feeling that this is only the beginning. Rodgers, given sufficient backing, can engineer a climate that has not, nor will be, seen for a generation.
Every Celtic fan, across the globe, would wish for Tierney and Dembele to commit their entire career to Celtic and bring in an unprecedented level of success, however, we have to be pragmatic. Football has transformed into a planetary-sized beast where the most moneyed clubs invariably hoover up the best talent. Tierney and Dembele will eventually depart, but when they do it will shatter records. And do you know what? They will justify the inevitable mammoth fees.
All we can do is smile and enjoy these two wondrous talents while we can.