Kevin McCluskie with A Celtic State of Mind – The Age of Edouard

At the tender age of 21, French striker Odsonne Edouard has become the latest member of the 100 Club at Celtic Park, marking his century of appearances in the Green and White with a standout performance against Thursday night’s opponents Lazio a fortnight ago.

Arriving on loan from PSG in the summer of 2017 as a backup option to Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths, Edouard has gone on to make the main centre forward role his own, with an impressive strike rate of a goal every other game; not to mention his assists and general contribution to the team.

While Edouard’s goal-to-game ratio, as a standalone stat, is fairly impressive – even more so when factoring in that the majority of his early appearances came from the bench as Brendan Rodgers looked to ease him into the side – it is his ability to rise to the big occasion that marks the Frenchman out as a top striker.

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Unknown Quantity

It would be a fair assessment to say that Odsonne Edouard fell into the category of unknown quantity or ‘project signing’ upon his arrival. Few, if any, Celtic fans would have had prior knowledge of the precocious 19-year-old loan signing from PSG; with a fair few labelling him as another ‘project signing’ who Celtic would ultimately develop for the benefit of his parent club. 

However, Celtic required a third striking option at the time to play back-up to Dembele and Griffiths, and bringing in a hungry young striker with a proven record at youth level seemed like a signing we could all get on board with.
 
A debut goal away at Hamilton provided the perfect start for Edouard, however, he soon found himself back down the starting order as Griffiths and Dembele regained form and fitness. Edouard showed sporadic glimpses of his talents during a series of cameo appearance and brief flirtations with the starting line-up, however, it was clear during the early stages of his Celtic career that Edouard was a rough diamond in need of some polishing around the edges.

As his debut season progressed, so did Edouard, improving his overall game markedly and developing his composure in front of goal. His raw pace and strength made him a handful for defences, and his improved all round awareness and movement off the ball helped the young striker to find more space and time inside the box aiding his efforts to become Celtic’s number one striker.

Ibrox, That Goal, and Coming of Age

The Glasgow Derby of 3 November 2018 is a game that will be forever etched in the memories of Celtic fans as ten-man Celtic defeated Rangers 3-2 at Ibrox Park. It is also the day that Odsonne Edouard came of age.

With Celtic already reduced to ten men and the score tied at 2-2, Edouard entered the fray on the 67th minute as a second striker alongside Dembele. Two minutes later Dembele released Edouard on the left with a sumptuous through pass. Edouard teased his way into the box, jinked inside, past two Rangers defenders before curling a delightful effort beyond Fotheringham to seal the game for Celtic. And just like that, French Eddy was born and the Celtic faithful had a new hero.

I Wanna Be Edouard

Edouard’s loan transfer was made permanent in the summer of 2018 for a club-record fee believed to be between £7 million and £9 million depending on where you read. Following on from his Ibrox heroics and the subsequent departure of Moussa Dembele on the final day of the same transfer window, Edouard has quickly established himself as the number one striker at the club and the man for the big occasion.

Late winners at Hearts and Dundee helped to secure last season’s title and his two-goal performance in the Scottish Cup final to wrap up the Treble Treble will live long in the memory. Further Glasgow Derby goals against Rangers at both Celtic Park and Ibrox have also cemented Edouard as a fans’ favourite.

However, it is not just in the domestic game that Edouard has thrived. Goals against both the Red Bull clubs in last season’s Europa League campaign helped to announce the Frenchman on the European stage, and a further four goals in Europe so far this season have aided his cause yet further. 

Edouard’s stunning form and development over the past two years culminated in his recent call-up to the French U21 side where he has scored an incredible 9 goals in just 4 games. Celtic fans are already aware that they have a hugely talented striker on their hands, and it now seems that the rest of Europe is wakening up to this fact as well with a series of top clubs linked with the striker.

After another stellar performance, including an assist for Ryan Christie’s leveller, against Lazio last time out on his 100th appearance, you wouldn’t bet against the young Frenchman being the star of the Celtic show in Rome on Thursday evening. Rome, of course, is a city famous for its Gladiatorial past, and Celtic will look no further than to Edouard to be the man to put Lazio to the sword.

Kevin McCluskie

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