Luke Ayling recently admitted that he was close to signing for Celtic before his move to Leeds back in 2016. Speaking on the GIANT podcast, the right-back said: “The week before [I signed for Leeds] I had a sniff of going to Celtic, but a few things didn’t happen. When Leeds came in I was like happy days.”
So whilst it’s safe to say that the 29-year-old is happy with his decision, the Hoops must also see the silver lining over losing out on a top quality defender.
Indeed, Ayling has rapidly become one of Marcelo Bielsa’s key players, he was even labelled as Leeds’ “standout” performer by Stephen Warnock after they beat Aston Villa, but signing him would have heavily impacted the growth of youngster Jeremie Frimpong.
At the time, it may have come as a blow that the club missed out on such a big talent. Ayling has made a total of 162 appearances for Leeds so far and has contributed six goals and 16 assists, as well as helping to guide the Whites to their historic Championship title last season.
With Celtic struggling season, they would have benefited from having such a strong workhorse in their defence. However, signing Ayling would have set rising Hoops star Jeremie Frimpong back in his admirable progression.
Since the 2020/21 season started, the 19-year-old has featured in every game under Neil Lennon except their opening Champions League qualifying match against KR Reykjavik. He has contributed one goal and three assists so far this term (via Transfermarkt).
Frimpong has really stepped into his big boy boots and has edged fellow right-back Anthony Ralston out of favour. Whilst both are exciting young talents, there’s no doubt that Lennon has come to rely heavily on the Dutch youth international, who has impressed with his versatility to play across the backline as well as in midfield.
Had the Hoops bought Ayling, Frimpong may be stuck in the Celtic reserves or maybe not even at the club. Nick Hammond snapped up the 19-year-old last September coming through Manchester City’s youth system. In hindsight, it turned out to be a stroke of good luck that their interest in Ayling didn’t come to fruition.
In other news, Celtic dropped the ball by not pushing to sign Ivan Toney…