COMMENT By Matt Farr
Celtic are currently cruising at the top of the Scottish Premiership, boasting a 19-point lead over next-best Rangers with a game in hand.
Barring nothing short of a miracle, they are certain to claim their sixth consecutive title in six months’ time. They can also do so without losing a single game, having gone the entire domestic season unbeaten to date.
However, finishing unbeaten or lifting the title is no longer Celtic’s most pressing concern. Retaining the services of star performer Moussa Dembele is their top priority.
The Daily Mail reported on Friday that West Ham have held talks with Celtic this week about signing the France Under-21 international.
The Hammers are willing to pay £20million to land the striker but it is said that the Scottish giants are demanding £30million for him.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph claim Tottenham are “keeping close tabs” on Dembele 12 months after his move to White Hart Lane from Fulham collapsed at the eleventh hour.
Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers has claimed he has absolutely no intention of letting Dembele go this month, having brought him to the club only six months ago as his very first Hoops signing.
That said, the prospect of a big-money offer coming Celtic’s way is very much on the cards, and if offered the right price, there is a chance Dembele could be on the move.
In light of the Hammers’ £20 million bid, Football Insider analyses three ways Celtic must reinvest if they lose Dembele:
Buy a prolific goalscorer
First and foremost, the priority would be to replace Dembele. With 19 goals from 36 appearances, finding a suitable replacement will be no easy feat. But there are options out there.
Leigh Griffiths is also in impressive touch for Celtic this season, but the club wouldn’t be able to rely one just one striker for their goals, and that’s why they would have to find a replacement.
With at least £20 million at their disposal, the options are vast; and with Champions League football a likely outcome for next season, they’ve got a lot to offer.
The pick of the bunch though, should be West Brom’s Saido Berahino. For a while now, Berahino’s long-term future at the Hawthorns has gone under the microscope.
Amid various rows with the club hierarchy, and with his contract due to expire at the end of the season, the 23-year-old is expected to leave the club in the summer.
However, he could be available for transfer this month, and Celtic would be able to get him on a cut-price deal. He has made just four appearances in the Premier League this season, and would surely welcome the opportunity to start afresh under Brendan Rodgers at Parkhead.
Other options would include Middlesbrough’s Jordan Rhodes, who also looks certain to be on the move this month, and potentially even Newcastle’s Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Land long-term Brown replacement
At 31-years-old, by no means is Scott Brown done and dusted. However, his advancing years means that at some stage Celtic will have to consider a long-term replacement for their beloved skipper.
There are some handy younger players already in the Celtic ranks like Stuart Armstrong and Liam Henderson that could do the job, but they could also throw some money elsewhere.
What they have in Brown is a midfielder enforcer, a tough-tackling, ball-winning midfielder. The Scotland international does at times though, lack in some areas, including his passing range.
With money to spend, Rodgers shouldn’t hold back. He wants to build a squad capable of challenging in Europe next season, and his transfer targets should match his ambitions.
Jonjo Shelvey is a similar player to Brown, but with the added success in his passing-game. He is, however, Newcastle’s key player, but having played under Rodgers at Liverpool, could look towards Celtic’s European credentials as an exciting opportunity.
Premier League duo Tom Cleverley and Fabian Delph have both been linked with moves way this month, and could be worthy assets.
Koussi Eboue looks set to arrive with European credentials of his own – pending a successful work-permit application – but Rodgers should not stop there.
Bring in a top-quality defender
Celtic wouldn’t be unbeaten in domestic competitions this season if they didn’t have a strong defence. However, on the European front, it does not look quite as formidable.
The signing of veteran defender Kolo Toure hasn’t quite worked out as hoped, and there’s still a real lack of that extra bit of quality in their defensive ranks.
Experience will be the key, particularly on the European stage, while consistency is another aspect high on the agenda.
Borussia Dortmund’s Neven Subotic could be a handy addition. Despite his injury concerns, the Serbia international remains a quality defender and would be available at the right-price, having fallen down the pecking order.
Rodgers could even return to his former club to look at Mamadou Sakho. The Frenchman is not part of Jurgen Klopp’s first-team plans and will also be available.
Meanwhile, if Manchester United make a player like Chris Smalling available, Celtic should jump at the chance.