Celtic have made few mistakes with regards to recruitment during Ange Postecoglou’s time in charge, although one notable recent error for the Parkhead outfit was failing to land playmaker Ryan Gauld, with the diminutive Scotsman having seemingly been up for grabs last summer.
The former Dundee United starlet – who joined Sporting CP on a £3m deal back in 2014 – was available on a free transfer following the expiry of his contract with fellow Portuguese outfit Farense, with as many as 30 clubs having believed to be keen on his signature.
The Hoops were reportedly one of those interested in the Aberdeen-born sensation, although he ultimately sealed a switch to MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps, with the 26-year-old having since shown his class for the Canadian outfit.
The £5.85m-rated genius has already registered 13 goals and provided 11 assists in just 50 games for the club thus far, having notably been in sparkling form in the current campaign with seven goals and four assists in the league.
Although some may deride the quality of the competition in his current league, the dynamic midfielder has previously showcased his brilliance in one of Europe’s top leagues, having registered 32 goal contributions in just 71 games at his former club.
That included a remarkable spell of form during the 2020/21 season – which sparked the interest of Ange Postecoglou and co – as the former Scotland U21 international netted nine times and provided seven assists in 33 Primeira Liga games.
His form over the past few seasons has seen Gauld begin to realise the early potential he had briefly showcased at Tannadice – where he laid on 21 goal involvements in just 51 games as a teenager – with the 5 foot 6 ace having even earned comparisons to a certain Lionel Messi in his youth for his creative talent.
It has been a long road since then after enduring a handful of stints out on loan during his time with Sporting, including a disappointing return to Scotland with Hibernian in 2019 in which he made just six appearances, although the versatile asset has proven of late just what a devastating talent he truly is.
The Scotsman would likely have been an ideal fit in Postecoglou’s set-up as a link between midfield in attack, with the 57-year-old having showcased his knack for getting the best out of players who have perhaps fallen away in recent years, most notably with the case of a resurgent Joe Hart.
Quite why the Scottish champions didn’t do more to sign what is still a relatively youthful figure on a free is something of a headscratcher, with those at Celtic Park likely to be left to rue that decision as Gauld continues to impress.