By Brian P. Dunleavy
Lost in the “will-he-or-won’t-he?” January transfer saga surrounding Celtic’s Moussa Dembele is the fact that the Hoops stand to lose other notable figures around the club, in addition to the Frenchman, before the window closes at the end of the month.
Midfielder Liam Henderson, who signed with the Parkhead side as a youth and whose brother Ewan remains a promising young star in the club’s academy, is reportedly on trial with Serie B side Bari. The elder Henderson, once touted as a potential replacement for Celtic captain Scott Brown, is still just 21—though, granted, he’s had ample opportunity to secure a regular first-team place under three managers (Neil Lennon, Ronny Deila and Brendan Rodgers) and has, obviously, failed to do so.
In fact, it’s perhaps telling that Lennon, now in charge at Hibernian, of course, hasn’t made a move for the player, given his history with him and the fact that Liam played a key role in the Edinburgh club’s Scottish Cup triumph in 2016, while there on loan from Celtic. That historic victory occurred before Lennon was hired at Easter Road, it should be noted.
Central defenders Jozo Simunovic and Erik Sviatchenko are also reportedly on their way out of Glasgow’s East End. Simunovic has allegedly drawn interest from Burnley and Crystal Palace, while Sviatchenko has been told by Rodgers that he is free to go, with no future in the first team at Celtic. To date, only FC Copenhagen has expressed a desire to sign the Dane, which may be an indication of just where the market is for the injury-prone defender is at the moment, although he still holds (dim?) hopes of representing his country in Russia this summer.
Marvin Compper has already been signed from Red Bull Leipzig to replace one or both of them, but he is not eligible to play for Celtic in the Europa League.
And speaking of Crystal Palace, the London club are allegedly among several interested in signing Celtic’s “other” top striker, Leigh Griffiths. Sporting Kansas City of MLS are also on that (dare we say, short?) list. Women of the Midwest—and London—consider yourselves warned: Griffiths was recently called out by an ex-girlfriend of leaving her high and dry to raise his newborn daughter alone. No judgements here, but the girl is Griffiths’ fifth child by three different women—though, by most accounts, he has grown into a devoted father.
It’s unlikely that Griffiths’ family, uh, matters will play any role in his future, or lack thereof, at Celtic Park, but he would seem to be dealing from a position of strength, given his goal haul and Dembele’s unclear future. Would Rodgers be willing to risk the upcoming Europa League campaign with only Odsonne Edouard making up the first team’s strike force? Patrick Roberts can play up front, but he is recovering from injury; and, Scott Sinclair could play there as well, but he has had an up and down season, and may be carrying an injury as well.
Griffiths would likely do well in MLS, but the move, at least on the surface, seems to make little sense for a player with kids as well as international aspirations with Scotland—although we know the Tartan Army don’t have any plans this summer. Heck, they don’t even have a manager!
What makes much more sense is midfielder Kundai Benyu going out on loan (to Oldham Athletic) and fellow midfielder Eboue Kouassi, reportedly, following suit—to a destination as yet unknown.
With all these “goings,” though, we can’t help but wonder when the “comings” will start—and which players will be involved.
Rodgers has to have a plan—doesn’t he?