One title-winner on the continent this season could well have been playing for Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic side at Parkhead had things turned out differently a few years back.
The story begins in Italy where a certain England international was once touted with a move to the Hoops.
As Manchester City celebrated their fourth Premier League title in five seasons, elsewhere in Italy long-suffering AC Milan claimed their first Serie A triumph in 11 years, edging out title contenders – and city rivals – Inter Milan in the process.
The relevance of this to Celtic? Well, one man who proved integral to that Scudetto success was former Chelsea defender Fikayo Tomori, who has been a revelation at the San Siro since departing the Blues, initially on loan, in January 2021.
The 24-year-old could well have plotted a different career path, however, having been heavily linked with a move to Paradise almost three years ago, with the Glasgow outfit keen to prise the centre-back from Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2019.
The Canada-born gem had just come off the back of an impressive campaign under Frank Lampard at Championship side Derby County, helping the Rams to the playoff final as part of a team that contained the likes of Mason Mount and current Fulham star, Harry Wilson.
With that having been his third temporary stint away from Cobham, however, the west Londoners were seemingly reluctant to allow the academy graduate to head out on loan again, opting instead to either retain him or let him depart permanently.
Reports at the time suggested that the Hoops – then managed by Neil Lennon – were interested in a permanent switch, albeit with the defender’s parent club demanding a reported £10m for his services – a fee that would have been a record figure for the Scottish Premiership side.
As it proved, the Old Firm outfit backed away from a deal – likely because of the asking price – with Tomori going on to be a part of Lampard’s squad back at Chelsea for the 2019/20 campaign.
Forking out a relatively hefty fee for the player may have looked unwise at the time, although that decision from Lennon and co now appears to have backfired, with Transfermarkt now valuing him at as much as £40.5m, having joined his current club permanently for £30m last summer.
Highly rated by Italian icon Paolo Maldini – who dubbed him “perfect” – the £52k-per-week colossus has been in stunning form for the Rossoneri over the last 18 months or so, averaging 1.5 interceptions, 2.4 tackles and 2.5 clearances per game in the league in the 2021/22 campaign, while also ranking as the fourth-best player among the Milan squad, as per SofaScore.
Such has been his form of late that he has even been described as “better than [Matthijs] De Ligt” by pundit Paolo Ziliani, a huge compliment indeed considering that the Dutchman cost Juventus roughly £67.5m three years ago.
Celtic then have had to watch on as Tomori has blossomed, with there no doubt annoyance among supporters that they couldn’t get the deal done, particularly when considering that they coughed up roughly £7m to sign Christopher Jullien that same summer.
Although the Frenchman has impressed when fit, the 29-year-old has endured a lengthy stint out with injury, leaving the club desperately short of quality defensive options.
The arrival of Cameron Carter-Vickers on a loan deal last summer has helped to soften the blow, although there will remain a lingering frustration that the Scottish champions passed up the chance to sign the current Milan ace.