Heavily-linked Celtic transfer target Mark McKenzie officially joined Belgian outfit Genk last week in a deal worth $6million (£4.2m).
The rising 21-year-old starlet will take on a new challenge across the pond in a move that will surely have Nick Hammond and co green with envy.
As it stands, the Hoops are in a serious crisis when it comes to their first team options. Neil Lennon and an alarming 14 of his senior players have been forced to self-isolate. According to Sky Sports, Christopher Jullien became the latest player to contract the virus, leaving Celtic with a skeleton crew.
Despite miraculously drawing against Hibernian with a makeshift starting lineup, the reigning Premiership champions are still in a huge rut.
Three of Lennon’s four first team centre-backs are in quarantine and it has forced the Bhoys to rely on the likes of reserve player Stephen Welsh. However, even without the impact of coronavirus, Celtic have struggled with the fitness of Jullien.
The Frenchman has missed a total of 16 matches this season, as per Transfermarkt. Shane Duffy is only contracted on a temporary basis and Hatem Abd Elhamed has slipped down the pecking order.
As for Kristoffer Ajer, interest from rival clubs continue to emerge and Celtic may be forced to cash in if he doesn’t pen a new deal soon. His contract runs out in 2022 and with Rangers all but confirmed winners this term, the Norwegian colossus could be headed out the door.
McKenzie would have been a fine replacement for Ajer. The two are similar in terms of their no-nonsense defensive style and commanding presence across the backline. According to WhoScored, the pair have a similar passing percentage this season, with McKenzie registering 82.2% and Ajer with 89.5%.
However, the former Philadelphia Union man has more clearances (4.6), tackles (1.6) and interceptions (2) compared to Ajer’s respective 2.9, 1.5 and 1.2 per match.
Had Celtic signed a similar player of a similar age to Ajer, he would have almost certainly served as an ideal replacement. If the 22-year-old does leave for pastures new, Lennon will be left with a thread-bare defensive roster and that could seriously harm Celtic’s chances of reclaiming their league title.
AND, in other news, Celtic’s Cameron Harper let Neil Lennon down against Hibernian…