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McGinn, Boyata, Piccini, Shved and the lessons of 2018/19

Listening to a podcast recently I was struck by the comment that it was something of a miracle how long Brendan Rodgers stayed with Celtic during the 2018/19 season.

The idea that he ups sticks and moves on as soon as favourable terms are waved in his direction is put to bed by any review of that torturous period.

The cases of John McGinn and Marian Shved are well known but trawling through the fixtures and headlines much more comes to the surface.

On the back of retaining the treble and securing a place in the group phase of the Champions League for the second season running the manager has reasonable grounds to believe that his judgement, within reason would be backed. Signing a former Season Ticket holder, the son of a former Chairman really ought to have been routine but it was a task too far for Peter Lawwell.

In tandem with the loss of McGinn, Rodgers did the groundwork to bring Cristiano Piccini from Sporting Lisbon to Celtic, a deal that the CEO managed to unpick.

When the team lines appeared for the defeat at Hearts between the AEK Athens ties many viewed that as a plea for help to strengthen the squad.

The sale of Stuart Armstrong did go through smoothly, in the summer of 2016 the former Dundee United man could easily have been discarded but the new manager got to work to turn potential into performances and a valued asset. £8m collected, less than half of that would have secured McGinn.

Summer 2018 had so many sub plots, one of the most bizarre was the situation of Dedryck Boyata with his agent Jacques Lichtenstein keen to make the most of some unexpected appearances at the World Cup Finals for Belgium.

It should also have been a great showcase for Celtic to cash in on a player in the final year of his contract but with no replacement defender lined up things got very messy around the second leg of the doomed Champions League qualifier away to AEK Athens.

Answering questions about the brewing row, Rodgers told the Daily Record:

I haven’t had dealings with Dedryck’s agent, it has all been through the club. The club have been in negotiation with Dedryck’s agent from last year.


It is clear we want to keep him but probably right for him he wanted to wait until after the World Cup to see how it went.


There have been one or two offers for him but if we lose a centre-half of that quality at this vital stage, we have to replace him.


The only other point; Dedryck’s agent turned up yesterday at the training ground, which is closed the day before the game.


He wanted to speak to me at 10 o’clock. I have a meeting with players at 10.30 and I said I couldn’t meet him before but I would after I had done my work.


Obviously when I came back after training he wasn’t there. That’s where it is at. But he is a player we don’t want to lose.

A fortnight after those comments, with Green Brigade banners questioning his commitment, Boyata scored the only goal of the game in a despairing home win over Hamilton Accies.

Just before Steven Gerrard’s first Glasgow Derby Moussa Dembele was sold to Lyon with Filip Benkovic brought in on loan from Leicester alongside free agent Youssouf Mulumbu. Some might describe that as managed decline. Emilio Izaguirre returned a year after being surplus to requirements.

With the on-going issues of Leigh Griffiths, Odsonne Edouard effectively became the only available striker but the League Cup was secured although a defeat at Ibrox wasn’t the best way to go into the winter break.

Any notion of strengthening in January was killed off by the loan signing of Oli Burke, a look at his career pays testimony to the powers of his agent. Timo Weah also came in on loan, two young Americans that couldn’t work in the UK were added, Manny Perez and Andrew Gutman before Shved was signed then loaned back while another sticking plaster was applied in the shape of Jeremy Toljan. On Transfer Deadline Day.

Much of the hard graft put in during Rodgers’ first two seasons had been unpicked, the frustrations of the manager were understandable but the timing of his exit was very, very poor. One more week, seeing through visits to Hearts and Hibs would have made a big difference on how his departure was viewed.

Caretaker Neil Lennon arrived with perfect timing, another treble was completed but the recruitment process that led to the Hampden dressing room wasn’t in keeping with a supposedly well run club.

Rodgers made clear reference to recruitment issues during his first stint when he was introduced second time around. Hopefully Dermot Desmond won’t be forced into action again with Michael Nicholson learning from his predecessors mistakes.

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