The Herald - Herald Sport
Long summer lies in wait for Celtic with Postecoglou heading south
Will manager turn to Glasgow in search for new recruits for Spurs?
THERE is no denying it, football can be a brutal business. Less than 72 hours on from Ange Postecoglou hoisting the Scottish Cup high above his head to complete Celtic’s clean sweep of Scottish silverware, the i’s are being dotted and the t’s crossed on his departure south for Tottenham Hotspur. Feelings will inevitably be mixed. Departing is a man who dragged Celtic off the canvas and delivered five trophies in two seasons, who patented a high-octane, often thrilling brand of football. That it is to be to a perceived lesser club, in terms of history and fanbase, dictates his exit will not sit well with everyone.
But that is simply Celtic’s place in world football’s rather skewed food chain, especially where Premier League sides are involved. The opportunity to manage in the world’s most prestigious league has proven too much for Postecoglou to resist, and it is an understandable decision for a 57-year-old coach who has only two seasons in a European top-flight to his name.
The pain of his exit will feel raw among Celtic’s supporters for some time, and the healing process will not be aided by the not-unlikely prospect of Postecoglou inviting some of those who made his Parkhead tenure such a success to join him in London.
There is no doubt he has a busy summer ahead, with Spurs in need of a rebuild reminiscent of that which faced Postecoglou two years ago. It is an environment, however, within which the Greek-Australian has stressed he is comfortable operating.
The initial outlook, as he himself has put it, has rarely been rosy at any job he has taken on, and Spurs are most definitely in need of a rapid, significant turnaround. Any number of players could be departing the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this summer, the most high-profile being Harry Kane.
Kane is no doubt a player he would be rather keen to work with, but with only a year remaining on his deal it may finally be time for the club’s record goalscorer to move for pastures new. Chairman Daniel
Levy is unlikely to entertain any offers south of £100million, funds which would more than embellish Postecoglou’s plans to build a functioning squad.
It’s been reported in England that Spurs could dispense with as many as seven first-team players this summer, including Hugo Lloris, Ben Davies, Sergio Reguilon, Davinson Sanchez, Eric Dier, Harry Winks and Eric Dier. It also seems unlikely that loanees Clement Lenglet and Arnaut Danjuma will be offered permanent deals.
A cursory glance at that list leads quicky to the conclusion that Postecoglou will need at least one centre-back over the coming months, and there are plenty reasons why it could have been Cameron CarterVickers. The USA internationalist grew up in the Spurs academy, therefore would already be largely familiar with his surroundings.
Primarily, though, his development at Celtic has been remarkable, and if there is one player at the club who now looks ovenready for a step up to the Premier League, it is Carter-Vickers. The 23-year-old strolled his way through much of this season, carrying the swagger and assuredness of a player operating on a different level to
almost everyone else in the country.
But it could well transpire that the only real silver lining from CarterVickers being sidelined for a number of months post-knee surgery is that it insulates Celtic from losing a player who would surely otherwise have attracted significant interest – and not just from Postecoglou.
With a squad restructuring on the cards from the minute he walks through the door, Postecoglou cannot really afford to splash any of his transfer budget on a player who would not be able to set foot on a pitch any time soon. Could it be one he turns to further down the line? Quite possibly.
Across two campaigns in
Glasgow, Postecoglou placed enormous faith in the contingent of Japanese players, most of whom quickly proved masterful signings. There is particular fan anxiety around Reo Hatate and Kyogo Furuhashi, who have been the standout performers since landing from the J-League.
Given his age and profile, if Postecoglou were to move for either you suspect it could be Hatate. The 23-year-old has already been linked with Brighton & Hove Albion given they look set to lose one or both of Alexis MacAllister and Moises Caicedo in the coming months. But Postecoglou’s presence in England could be a significant factor in Hatate’s future ambitions, and Spurs’ midfield is in real need of a dynamic, technically astute operator, something they would certainly get with the former Kawasaki Frontale star.
Furuhashi, though, has been linked with following his manager to Spurs via reports in England, where it’s claimed he could be recruited as cover or even to replace Kane, should he be sold this summer. With Real Madrid looking likely to step up their interest in the wake of Karim Benzema’s Bernabeu career coming to an end, it stands to reason Postecoglou will be in the market for a striker. He also has Richarlison to work with, but the Brazilian’s largely miserable first season in North London has fans clamouring for an upgrade.
From Furuhashi’s perspective, although he has clearly given his heart and soul to Celtic, the Premier League, you have to think, would be a hugely alluring for a 28-year-old striker. His situation would reflect Postecoglou’s in that opportunities on this continent were non-existent
for a long time, and his age – in an era where clubs increasingly prefer younger signings – raises the question of whether he feels, like Postecoglou, that this could be too great an opportunity to reject.
It’s early days, of course – Postecoglou hasn’t even put pen to paper on his Spurs contract – but he will already have transfer targets in mind. As it was with Celtic, the need for him to hit the ground running is dire, and a swift move to secure his first signings would not be a surprise.
He may believe recruiting some players already familiar with his methods is the ideal place to start, and that is why you’ll find Celtic fans feeling ever-so-slightly on edge over the coming weeks. They may be encouraged by the fact Brendan Rodgers was linked with plenty of his former Celtic players when he upped sticks for Leicester City –
Odsonne Edouard, Callum McGregor and Kristoffer Ajer spring to mind – but it transpired that he did not sign any of them.
Postecoglou does have a track record in signing players he has previously worked with, Daizen Maeda and Tomoki Iwata being two such examples, but that does not necessarily mean he’s going to take a wrecking ball to the squad he meticulously built in Glasgow.
Competing in the upper echelons of the Premier League, with finances in a different stratosphere, gives Postecoglou access to a whole other calibre of footballer. That being said, there are more than a few in his Celtic ranks who have looked capable of taking their game to another level, something Postecoglou will know better than anyone. There’s an intriguing summer ahead.