Scottish Premiership giants Celtic are reportedly keeping tabs on Hadjuk Split midfielder Jani Atanasov, with the Macedonian gem potentially the next new arrival at Parkhead.
According to Sky Sports, the Old Firm outfit are ‘interested’ in signing the 22-year-old this summer, as they also close in on a deal for Rubin Kazan winger, Sead Haksabanovic.
There has been some suggestion of late that there is “nothing in [the] pipeline” regarding a deal for Atanasov, although this latest update would suggest otherwise, with manager Ange Postecoglou looking to add to his seven major deals completed so far this summer.
A defensive midfielder by trade, the one-cap sensation could well prove to be the man to fill the void left behind by Nir Bitton, with the Israeli international having departed the Glasgow side at the end of last season.
The 30-year-old – who has since linked up with Maccabi Tel Aviv – had spent nine years with the Hoops after joining back in 2013, going on to win eight league titles in that time having proven himself a useful asset to the squad over the years.
While not a regular starter under Postecoglou last term, the versatile colossus – who can also slot in at centre-back – still racked up 38 appearances in all competitions, scoring twice and laying on two assists in that time.
His form in the league, in particular, caught the eye as he averaged an impressive 1.2 tackles per game and won 69% of his total duels, with such a record not far behind that of reliable skipper Callum McGregor, who averaged 1.5 tackles and won 71% of his aerial duels in that title-winning campaign.
With 271 appearances in all during his time at Celtic Park, the experienced head is one that will be difficult to replace, with the arrival of the more creative Aaron Mooy not quite plugging the gap in a defensive sense.
Bitton’s subsequent departure has only heightened the need for a new addition at the base of the midfield to provide cover for the aforementioned McGregor, albeit with even the Scotland international also more of a forward-thinking, playmaking midfielder.
Atanasov, then, could be the recruit that the club are crying out for, with the 6 foot 2 brute likely to offer quality protection in front of the back four, having averaged 1.6 tackles and won 65% of his aerial duels from his 21 league games last term – a record not too dissimilar to the two men mentioned above.
The £630k-rated ace can also chip in in the final third when required, having scored five goals and registered two assists in his 60 games across all competitions for the Croatian outfit, having previously enjoyed spells at both Bursaspor and Akademija Pandev.
Although something of an unknown quantity, the evidence would suggest that he could well be an ideal successor to Bitton, should Celtic snap up him up before the September deadline.