Will Jota’s departure open the door for a resurgent Liel Abada?

When Celtic return for pre-season training this week, apart from the usual fitness and sports science stuff that will need to be attended to, the team will meet with the new manager in person for the first time. I say “in person” because I’m sure most of them will have already had a message or phone call from the new ‘Gaffer’ as that’s the way he works.

There will surely be a presentation, it’s in Brendan’s DNA to do a presentation, and performance targets will be set. There will also be one-to-one meetings where Brendan will want to see the look in the players’ eyes, especially those who were away on loan last season and the ones who were on the fringes of the first team.  These players will come into that meeting knowing that the manager will offer them a clean slate and a chance to prove themselves to him. The old boss is gone and everyone has a line-in-the-sand moment.

It’s up to them. The next few weeks are massive.

First impressions with Brendan

One player who will be going into his meeting conflicted is Liel Abada. His landscape has been altered over the last few days and what he thought was his future is now up in the air. Abada was a bit-part player towards the end of last season.  He was unable to force golden bhoy Jota from the side and cast doubt on his commitment to the club due to his reluctance to sign a new and improved contract.  The contract on offer would have secured the Israeli’s place as a top earner at Celtic and would also have strengthened the club’s hand when it comes to eventually moving him on when the time is right. And that is important, moving players on when the time is right.

The Jota deal has fallen into the laps of all parties concerned.  Up until the last week, Celtic would have been calm in their thinking that no other club would be prepared to meet their valuation of Jota.  The player himself was not actively seeking a way out of Paradise and would likely be as surprised as anyone with the opportunity that presented itself to see him become set for life and the poster boy for the brave new world of football.

There are a lot of surprising things about the Jota deal.  For me, the most striking is not the money on offer, that is to be expected, but the fact that he doesn’t exactly seem to fit the same high profile in comparison to other recent additions to the Saudi dream. There is an element of luck about this. His agent is courting all players on his books to the league and his potential new boss, Nuno Espirito Santo, knows the player well.

At no stage last season were the owners of Al Ittihad watching Jota in the Scottish Premiership thinking: “Aye lads, he is the player we need.”

Not that we can be bothered about that now. It’s happening. Good luck to Jota. We enjoyed you and your song was just as famous as you. We are going to clear somewhere in the region of £13 million by my rough calculations, and that’s money we didn’t expect to have.



Saudi move for Jota puts Abada in centre stage

We maybe would have planned to get money in for Liel Abada after being told he was unhappy with life at Celtic playing second fiddle to the Mulleted Miracle. That’s why Marco Tilio has been brought in. We expected to lose a player just not the one we are losing.

This is where all bets are off now. Liel Abada will know what is out there on offer for him. The club will know what is out there on offer for the player. Celtic has no need to sell Abada now and Abada could be thinking that he doesn’t need to move anymore as his main competition has gone. This is his chance to step out from Jota’s shadow and make that right-wing spot his own, because at the moment it is his to lose.

Abada has attributes that Brendan Rodgers loves in a wide player. His stats are very similar to a certain Scott Sinclair and I’m sure Brendan will be looking forward to the conversation. If the player has the hunger in his eyes to be a main player for Celtic this season and see what next close-season brings, then Celtic have won a watch. They have a talented young player under contract whose value could rocket over the next 12 months. If that looks like happening they could push the button and bring in Yang Hyun Jun and send him back on loan to his current club.

The outcome of the Abada conversation will be the most interesting one this week.

Kevin Graham

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