After finally touching down in Glasgow on Wednesday afternoon, Ange Postecoglou has got straight to work on Celtic’s recruitment.
Prior reports led us to believe that the new Hoops boss was already active in the window, with Celtic’s defence a key priority of his.
That happens to be one of their former employers, Aaron Hickey.
According to the Daily Mail (via The Sun), the Bhoys are plotting a £3m bid in order to prise him away from Bologna.
Hickey only joined the Serie A side last summer but could make a swift return to Scotland after initially departing Hearts.
Celtic have been interested in securing his services for a number of months and it looks as though a move may be starting to materialise.
With the new Celtic head coach preferring an attack-minded style of play in his previous jobs, Hickey would be an ideal signing.
He might be a defender but he often plays at breakneck speed, darting down the left-hand side in much the same way Kieran Tierney did for the Bhoys.
Hickey left Celtic as a 16-year-old but has progressed immensely in recent seasons, now possessing a set of attacking traits to frighten the life out of defenders. In a scout report on the player, The Footie Analyst wrote: “One of Hickey’s key strengths is his ability to run with the ball at speed, utilising the space available to drive his team forward.”
Of players to feature for 90 minutes on more than one occasion last term, Hickey ranked as Bologna’s seventh-best player for ball carries with 38.3 per 90.
The teenager also ranked as the Italian club’s fourth-best player from their regular starters in terms of progressive carries of the ball per 90 minutes, advancing possession 229.9 yards.
What should really delight Postecoglou is Hickey’s ability to press. In Japan, the Australian built his system around a high-intense press, squeezing the opposition high up the pitch and winning the ball back quickly.
In this department, the £16k-per-week earner was successful with 35.1% of his pressures last season. That was the fourth-best tally at Bologna for those to manage more than four 90 minutes during the course of the campaign.
Another benefit for the new coach could be his versatility. Speaking previously about the defender’s game, former Hearts man Austin MacPhee remarked: “He’s so young he could play a lot of positions. He could end up being like Busquets.”
That’s a viewpoint that Craig Levein agrees with: “He could be a fantastic holding midfielder with his great awareness of danger and his ability to get out of tight situations with the ball at his feet,” he said.
Whether or not Hickey transitions into midfield remains to be seen but what is for sure, is that he’s as confident in possession as the great Spaniard.
He completed 91.1% of his short passes last term and over 85% of his medium passes.
For a further glimpse at his potential, he’s also been compared to one of the greatest German full-backs to play the game: “Aaron as a player is like Philipp Lahm,” ex-Hearts boss Daniel Stendel once commented.
“For me at Hearts, he played as a full-back. He not only runs up and down the line, but looks for attacking moves like Lahm once did. And Aaron can also play in the central midfield. Trust me, he will have a great career,” Stendel concluded.
The young Scot may have slipped through the Celtic net when he was younger but he is now swimming towards their waters again. Dominic McKay must set the bait and lure him to Paradise for a second stint.