COMMENT By Matt Farr
Scottish champions Celtic have already had a record-breaking season this term, and Brendan Rodgers has several of his key players to thank.
Since breaking into the first-team in April 2015, 19-year-old left-back Kieran Tierney has become an important asset for Celtic, and unsurprisingly his form has attracted keen interest from the Premier League.
The Mirror claimed earlier this month that Manchester United were tracking the Celtic youngster, while David Moyes’ Sunderland have recently emerged as the latest of Tierney’s admirers in a £10million-plus deal.
First and foremost, Celtic should not be taking any bids into consideration, because he has the potential to become one of Scotland’s best talents. If he is worth £10million now, imagine what he could be worth in several years’ time.
But if Celtic do lose Tierney to Sunderland, or another Premier League side, Brendan Rodgers should turn his attention to one of these three players as a replacement.
Rodgers must search for younger talent, because his only other option would be 30-year-old Emilio Izaguirre. Therefore, he should look at Leeds’ Charlie Taylor, who has been impressing in the Championship.
The 23-year-old is out of contract at Elland Road at the end of the season, and looks likely to leave the club regardless of the outcome of their promotion bid.
Like Tierney, he has been attracting interest from England’s top-flight, but with the prospect of a Champions League campaign on the cards next season, Celtic have enough in the tank to entice him to Parkhead.
Taylor’s strengths lie in his intelligence on the pitch, and his ability to read the game well. On the ball, meanwhile, he possesses a good passing range, and has a strong presence.
Rodgers will want a player competent at overlapping into the final-third, and while Taylor does not have explosive pace, he has enough to perform in the role.
Another young candidate should be Hull’s Andrew Robertson. Celtic may be more likely to lose Tierney in the summer, but that could be their best chance to sign Robertson from Hull.
With the Tigers battling against relegation from the top-flight, failure to retain their Premier League status could spell the end for some of their stars, and Celtic should pounce for Robertson – a player they released at the age of 15.
Again, the speedy 22-year-old likes to have an influence in the attacking-third, claiming three goals and five assists for Hull in the Championship last season.
He and Tierney are likely to rival each other for the Scotland international left-back role for years to come, and the defender would be the ideal man to replace Tierney.
Robertson is consistent, has great link-up play, and can deliver pinpoint crosses with a quality left-foot. What’s even more impressive is that he’s not the finished article either.
He has already come on leaps and bounds in the last few years, rising from Queens Park in 2013 to the Premier League in the space of just two years.
A third option is to replace one of Scotland’s best young left-backs with another high-potential young home-grown talent. If that is the case, look no further than Falkirk’s Tony Gallacher.
The 17-year-old has been impressing for the Scottish Championship side this season, and has been attracting interest from European giants Barcelona – according to The Daily Mail.
Gallacher has been with Falkirk ever since his was 10-years-old, and is the latest high-value product of Scotland’s youth system.
Although he does not have the most physical presence – mostly due to his age – he is a very quick player, and very athletic.
His temperament and hard-working desire are two more of his most notable attributes, and can go a long way to helping Brendan Rodgers establish a youthful, yet dominant Celtic side at the heart of Europe’s elite in the future.
In other Celtic transfer news, Rodgers has assured fans that this key man is a major part of their plans and will be offered a new deal.