By Alex McLeish

26th Sep, 2020 | 12:00pm

McLeish Exclusive: Alex Rae & I agreed demoted Celtic player 'one of best in the league'

Alex McLeish admits he thought Olivier Ntcham was “one of the best players in the league” before his fall down the pecking order at Celtic.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, the former Scotland and Rangers manager believes the 24-year-old’s dip in performances have coincided with Neil Lennon’s second spell in charge at Parkhead.

Ntcham, who joined the club from Manchester City in the summer of 2017, played a key role in the Hoops’ treble-winning seasons but has not been a regular starter since the Northern Irish boss took charge in February 2019.

McLeish insists that the midfielder was among the best players in the Premiership during his first couple of seasons in Scotland but admits he has suffered a significant dip in form over the past year-and-a-half.

McLeish told Football Insider: “Alex Rae and I had a conversation a couple of years ago and we really thought he was one of the best players in the league at a certain moment in Celtic’s last three or four years.

“He was in great form, he made great runs, he looked so confident when he came on the pitch that he knew every game that he was going to be up there in the star ratings.

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“Then over the last year and a half or so, he seems to have kind of not been the outstanding first choice – the first choice along with McGregor and all these guys, among the nucleus of the team.

“That would be the only difference I’ve seen between that time of judgement that Alex Rae and I had.”

Ntcham played 38 times across all competitions last season but only made 17 league starts.

He has a total of 133 appearances under his belt for the Hoops, 78 of which were made during Brendan Rodgers’ time in charge.

In other Celtic news, McLeish has been wowed by a player with just two starts for the Bhoys.