At the start of the season, when Ronny Deila announced that he was going to bring a number of players to Celtic Park on loan I thought it would be a disaster, and in European football terms it certainly looked as if I’d been borne out on that.
See, I’ve never liked players on loan.
I feel that if a footballer doesn’t belong to your club that on those days when the going gets tough it’s all too easy for him to down tools because he has nothing invested in the cause.
In the case of Berget, he barely picked those tools up in the first place.
Aside from a few flashes of ability I never saw it.
The manager liked him and knew him from his days in Norway, where the player had come up with the goods for his club, but he had failed to set the grass on fire in England and failed to set the heather ablaze up here.
Wakaso didn’t do a great deal to impress me either, but there does seem to be a footballer in there somewhere, but we never got a chance to find out. Overall, he was a real disappointment, particularly as we’d all heard good things about him.
Tonev, as we all know, had a difficult time here.
He undoubtedly possesses talent, but all too often his play was wasteful. He was the guy who’d have a shot from 30 yards rather than deliver the perfect pass to a teammate. Any chance he did have of making an impact in Scotland was shot the minute the SFA found him guilty, with no supporting evidence whatsoever, of racially abusing an Aberdeen player.
The decision was, and still is, a scandal.
Our two other loan signings came from one club; Manchester City, the Premiership big guns, riding high, and able to assemble squads of talented players at every level. I was excited about one of them, and indifferent about the other.
Funny how things turn out, right?
The one I was excited about was John Guidetti, of course, a player I’d been hearing about for a couple of years.
He had gone to Feyenoord and scored a truckload of goals, and the City hierarchy liked him a lot.
He was clearly a talented footballer, capable of magic, and Swedish with it, so he’d have needed no-one to tell him what was expected of a striker here. A certain other Swede had already set the bar pretty high on that score.
And you know what? For a while there it looked to me as if he might be the first player in the Hoops in many a year who actually had the goods to rise to that level. In his early days here he was scoring, literally, for fun.
On top of that, he showed a tremendous ability to strike a dead ball, one Celtic Park hasn’t seen since Nakamura was firing them in from acute angles and impossible distances.
This guy looked as if he had everything … but it wasn’t to have a happy ending.
I think the very worst thing a talented footballer can be is a “confidence player.”
We famously had one of those in the Hoops for a goodly time until very recently, Georgios Samaras, who I thought had all the skill in the world but was always hampered – and was always going to be – by a tendency to go off the boil and stay in the same rut for an extended period of time because, frankly, after a while his confidence just went.
Don’t get me wrong, big Georgios – another guy we initially got on loan from Man City of course – always had the right attitude. He never stopped working for the cause.
But when the self-belief isn’t there a striker more often than not is snatching at chances, failing to get on the end of things and generally frustrating the Hell out of the fans.
Guidetti was like that at times. Without the work ethic.
After missing a few chances in a game, he tended to drift out of it completely. He never hid – another hallmark of big Samaras – but there were whole sections of the game where he may as well not have been there.
Sections of the season, if I’m being honest.
I think most Celtic fans were also highly unimpressed by his attitude towards contract talks with the club. All told, we’d agreed a fee with City at around December when he looked like a player we’d wanted to keep.
Those talks went nowhere, and instead we were treated to a drip feed of stories about how other clubs wanted him and how he was talking to them. True or false, real or imaginary, the contract Celtic put on the table remains unsigned and at least one club who’s people claimed to have been in advanced negotiations with the player were spooked by pay demands which he simply isn’t worth.
If he had been worth the kind of salary he was allegedly asking for, well Hell … he’d have been in the Man City first team in the beginning.
In short, John Guidetti isn’t one Celtic fans are terribly going to miss. In flashes he showed brilliance – real brilliance, no joking – but it wasn’t there enough and there were issues which left a bad taste in the mouth.
At Celtic, players are expected to give everything and, as I said at the start, it’s one of the reasons I don’t like loanees.
Yet there was one exception last season, one player who’s attitude was excellent, who’s performances were stellar and who I would have badly liked to keep at Celtic Park for another year at least, on a loan deal or not.
Because he does have all the qualities necessary to be a top, top player; Jason Denayer.
I was less than enthused by the idea of bringing in a young, untested, central defender on loan, even if he came with the kind of reputation that sounded too good to be true. People have been comparing this kid to Vincent Kompany for the last few years and that kind of comparison hasn’t been good for a lot of kids, talented or not.
But I’ll tell you what … this kid could go far, and fast, because he does have the tools. He was the one unqualified success of the five loan signings and City are right to want to keep hold of him.
He performed just as effortlessly in the SPL as he did on the European stage, where he and Virgil Van Dijk formed a quick, and easy, partnership which I wish could have lasted longer.
For one thing, he has that most central requirement of a good defender; positional sense.
He has good feet. He reads the game very well and he can pass a ball too.
I think everyone at Celtic Park was hugely impressed, and I know we made a big effort to keep him beyond the duration. He also has the right attitude towards the game; he’s not flashy, not big headed and he doesn’t think he’s better than he is.
He has a healthy self-regard and self-belief, but that’s not arrogance.
Over the piece, the loan signings vindicated my belief that it’s madness to try to build a team out of another side’s players but Jason Denayer played so well that my misgivings over him were certainly not justified at all. He will be hard to replace.
Not so the others, but Ronny has a duty to try anyway.
Let’s see what the close season brings.
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