The summer transfer window is all click, click, click-bait with sites looking at message boards and Twitter for some rumour dinner. It’s a big obsessive business.
Clubs, agents and players step into the pay zone and are asked: “Cash, chip or pin, or instalments?” or “Sorry, for transactions that size no contactless is available”. Currency flies around like Monopoly money. The figures don’t feel real and are just zeroes in electronic ledger transfers.
Celtic is involved in this business. That is what happens when you are a successful club. Players will want to play for you as long as your chip and pin is working to their satisfaction. Clubs will want to buy your players as long as their offer meets your valuation or needs. Every player does have a price. Both buying and selling.
Transfers do play with fans’ emotions. A player signing is greeted with joy. No thought is given to the selling club’s fans. We’ve welcomed Christopher Jullien to our club. A player that was a stalwart of Toulouse for the past few seasons. A player that Toulouse fans wouldn’t have wanted to leave. When the transfer was first mooted, I’m sure they would have had the same reaction that we did over Arsenal’s courting of Kieran Tierney.
“What does he want to go there for?” “He is worth more than that.” A player leaving is seen as a rejection of all we hold dear and not the simple business transaction it is. A player is an asset. No more, no less and if someone wants your asset then there is always a price in our world.
But, Tierney is different. He would be the first mainstay youth product to leave since Aiden McGeady. The ordinary fan with extraordinary talent. He represents the past and hope for the future. We dream of him staying for his whole career. What we don’t see is the whole range of people telling the player differently. The club does and the club has to prepare for this.
Are we at the simple situation where the player’s talent has outgrown the club? Motherwell has seen that with the unfortunate David Turnbull. We have benefitted in the past from other Scottish clubs and have also lost out in the past. We gained Stuart Armstrong and lost Kenny Dalglish (and many others).
We then have the question of ambition and desire. We have a dressing room of players who have won the last nine domestic trophies. While nine and ten mean more than life itself to some, we have to face the thought that it may be just another title to others. They may be thinking it’s time to move on for a new challenge and life-changing financial transactions. History has been made and will remain made. Our previous manager opened the door to that professional thinking. Players don’t like change and we are changing. There is no point in having an unhappy player.
Finally, we have our duty to the player. We sell ourselves as a development club. We develop talent. Give them the tools to be the best that they can be and, if the opportunity comes for them to better themselves, we don’t stand in their way if it suits the club and the player. You can’t be seen as reneging on that but it’s a transient existence for the club and fan.
That clubs are interested in our players is a sign that we are doing something right. It’s a compliment that clubs are rumoured to be prepared to spend big transfer fees for players from a provincial league. The fees are small compared to the inflated markets in elite leagues but that is where sell-on clauses have worked well for us.
I want Celtic to keep all our best players, but understand that it’s just not possible. It’s a romantic and futile desire. The best I can hope for is that we are having the same problems in seasons to come with Ewan Henderson, Mikey Johnston, Karamoko Dembele and others. Because that means we have been successful, again.