For all the positivity at Celtic of late, one continual issue regarding the Scottish champions has been the loss of promising academy talent from Parkhead, with a handful of key figures having been poached from afar in recent years.
One such prospect who slipped from their grasp was current Scotland international, Aaron Hickey, with the impressive full-back having been part of the Old Firm’s side youth set-up after joining from Hearts at the age of 12, only to return to the Edinburgh outfit four years later in search of regular, senior action.
The then-teenager had seemingly assumed that he would not be able to attain a first-team role at Parkhead, hence his desire to depart, albeit with it something of a headscratcher that the Hoops didn’t do all they could to keep him on their books.
Having returned to Tynecastle in 2018, the Glasgow-born starlet went on to force his way into the senior reckoning, making his debut in May 2019 in a defeat to Aberdeen, before starting against Celtic, ironically, in the Scottish Cup final just a few weeks later at the age of just 16.
That summer of 2020 also saw the Celtic Park outfit tipped to bring the highly-rated asset back to his former club, albeit with the player instead making a bold decision to join Serie A side Bologna on a £1.5m deal, having admitted he “felt wanted” by the Italian outfit.
Unperturbed by that snub, the Old Firm side were again linked with a move last summer, albeit with reports suggesting that the Scottish Premiership side weren’t willing to fork out to meet his £8m price tag, having seen a £3.5m bid rejected.
As it proved, the four-cap sensation went on to enjoy a sparkling second season in Italy, scoring five goals and providing one assist from his wing-back berth in 36 games across all competitions, having also caught the eye of Steve Clarke at international level.
Such form unsurprisingly caught the attention of the Premier League, with Brentford ultimately splashing out £18m for his signature earlier this summer, almost double what Celtic potentially could have signed him for a year earlier.
That early run in the side at his new club notably saw the youngster impress in the 4-0 thrashing against Manchester United, memorably brushing aside Portuguese icon Cristiano Ronaldo with a ruthless shoulder barge in what was a sign of his undoubted confidence as well as his impressive “steel” – as previously stated by former teammate Christophe Berra.
Fearless against one of the game’s greatest marksmen, Hickey appears set to continue his meteoric rise in the years to come, with the Hoops left to rue their failure to keep hold of him, as well as their inability to secure a deal later down the line.
With it likely to take a hefty financial package to prise him from west London in the near future, it looks as if the Scottish champions have simply now missed the boat.