How Carl Starfelt became Celtic’s second unexpected departure of the summer

Carl Starfelt left Celtic for pastures new last week as he departed the club for Celta Vigo, linking up with Champions League winning manager Rafa Benitez. The Swede’s performances during his time at Celtic weren’t without criticism, but by the time he had moved on he had earned the respect of fans and pundits alike.

Forming a formidable partnership with Cameron Carter-Vickers, the 28-year-old never lost a league game at Celtic with the American by his side.

With Starfelt’s time at the club now over, here is a Celtic retrospective of his time in Glasgow.

Early days and a tough start

As previously mentioned, Starfelt’s time at the club didn’t come without its critics and the beginning of his Celtic career didn’t help his case.

As far as opening games go, a trip to a hostile Tynecastle to challenge Hearts is about as close to a baptism of fire as you can get, and he struggled. Noticeably looking shaky and unsettled after only training with his teammates once or twice prior to the game, Starfelt immediately came under fire.

This wasn’t helped by mistakes leading to goals against AZ Alkmaar in the Europa League qualifying play-off round. The team had endured a tough start to the league season anyway, losing three out of the first six league fixtures, but the time it took for the Swede to settle in at Parkhead had fans feeling nervous whenever he was on the ball.

The entire squad was struggling in the early stages, with a full-scale rebuild underway. 12 new players had been signed by the club with all of them adjusting to a new climate, a unique style of play, and for a lot of the new boys, a new language.

The arrival of Cameron Carter-Vickers and an unbreakable partnership

Carter-Vickers joined the club initially on a one-year loan deal from Tottenham Hotspur. There wasn’t much expectation that came with his arrival, but his presence on the Celtic backline was instantly felt.

A composed and imposing presence, having him in the defence made everyone better. More specifically, it made Carl Starfelt better. The dynamic the pair had together was what made them such a great partnership.

Carter-Vickers would handle a lot of the man-to-man defending whilst Starfelt dealt with the high aerial duels and the footraces against pacey attackers and it worked a charm.

If there was one real moment in which fans recognised the partnership that was quickly forming it would be April 3rd 2022.

Celtic went to Ibrox knowing that victory would grant them a six-point gap at the top of the table. Carter-Vickers scored what would be the eventual winner and the pair withstood a second-half onslaught from Rangers to ensure a vital three points.

That was the moment any doubt of Carl Starfelt’s ability was relieved.

Second Season

With the early nerves behind him and a formidable partnership taking shape, Starfelt played his best football at the club in his second season.

The opening months saw him hit with injuries, but this didn’t phase him.

The 28-year-old added goals to his game, netting two in the early stages of the season, and his performance levels never dropped. He earned himself a place in the PFA Scotland Team of the Year alongside Cameron Carter-Vickers as well as featuring in the Champions League, albeit in a 5-1 loss at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid.

He capped off his Celtic career winning a treble and, after 87 games and 40 clean sheets, Carl Starfelt caught the eye of Rafa Benitez.

With the prospect of moving to Vigo and also moving closer to his partner Jacynta Galabadaarachchi, Starfelt called an end to his Celtic career.


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