COMMENT By Matt Farr
Celtic may find themselves in a precarious position in the summer.
That does seem odd, considering they could be celebrating a domestic treble triumph, not to mention an unbeaten domestic campaign.
However, their success could also prove to be their biggest downfall. Many of their current stars have caught the eye of Premier League clubs, and their success at the end of the season will only trigger further interest in their services.
The likes of Kieran Tierney and Moussa Dembele have already been tipped to make big-money moves to England, and Celtic will fear that what the top-flight has to offer could be too much to resist.
Dembele in particular, will be no doubt the main topic of discussion in six months’ time. The 20-year-old has been the star of the show for Celtic this term, netting 23 goals from 39 appearances in all competitions.
After missing two games with injury, he came off the bench to score a superb hat-trick in the victory over St. Johnstone on Sunday, his second hat-trick of the season,
The France U21 international has already reached great heights in his debut campaign with Celtic, but his rapid rise to fame means it may also be his last with the club.
Brendan Rodgers took a strong stance on Dembele in January, which was little surprise, slapping a £40million price-tag on his chief goalscorer.
The valuation worked, as even Chelsea backed down in their pursuit, but he may not be able to fend them off next time.
At least one Premier League side will make a move in the summer, that’s almost certain. If it is a top-four side (like Chelsea), they will have Champions League football in their arsenal.
Celtic may also earn a place in Europe’s premier competition, but not only would they have to qualify for the group-stages, recent history suggests they won’t get much further than that. If Dembele wants a realistic shot at reaching the latter-stages of the competition, he will leave Celtic.
Then there is the case of his strike partner, Leigh Griffiths. While there is a slim chance that Dembele will remain at Parkhead in the summer, there is no chance that Griffiths will be hanging around.
The 26-year-old has fallen out-of-favour with Brendan Rodgers, who has urged him to improve his fitness. The Celtic boss has publicly shamed him for his fitness and attitude not once, but several times in recent weeks; suggesting that he would be perfectly happy to push him out the exit door in the summer.
The dilemma though, is that could leave Celtic desperately short of goalscoring options. With both Dembele and Griffiths missing two games with injury, Rodgers’ side showed that they could cope without them – albeit temporarily.
Give them a full season without them and they will struggle. Who is going to lead them to all the silverware they crave? Nadir Ciftci?
Celtic have little option but to prepare for the worst case scenario of losing both their star goalscorers. But they can certainly soften the blow by beginning the search for suitable replacements as soon as possible.
The type of player that they can attract remains unclear. Griffiths was already established in the Scottish Premiership, while Dembele was a free agent following his release from Fulham.
They were not exactly a coup. But they worked out very well indeed.
However, if Celtic can locate their targets well before the transfer window re-opens in the summer, they can give themselves an advantage over the sides that didn’t do any preparation.
Dembele and Griffiths WILL leave. But whether they end up with their top target, a plan B, or a last-resort depends entirely on when Rodgers begins his hunt for a replacement – and that should be now.
In other Celtic news, Dembele sent this Twitter message to fans after the victory over St. Johnstone.