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Forget Abada: Celtic must avoid losing Matt O’Riley in January

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou will no doubt be sweating ahead of the January transfer window, with the 57-year-old likely to be fearing the potential exits of a handful of key players amid intense interest from elsewhere.

Journalist Fabrizio Romano revealed earlier this week that wing wizard Liel Abada has caught the attention of numerous Premier League clubs as a result of his sparkling form of late, with the 21-year-old having scored 24 goals and registered 15 assists in 79 games for the Parkhead outfit to date.

The indication is that the Old Firm giants will look to try and tie down the Israel international to a new deal in order to ward off any interest, with Southampton having been named as a standout suitor at present.

The fear will be that a concrete approach could emerge in the New Year, with the Hoops hoping to avoid any sort of setback which could derail their current momentum in the quest to retain their Premiership title.

The champions should be fearful of losing not just Abada, though. Fellow youngster Matt O’Riley is another at Celtic who could well be the subject of firm interest next month, with the Denmark U21 international having previously been linked with a host of Europe’s top clubs over the summer, as per ESPN.

The report suggested that the London-born ace – who arrived in Scotland on a £1.5m deal from MK Dons in January – could well command a fee of around £20m, with both Newcastle United and Leicester City named as the most likely clubs to make an offer.

The player himself – who has also reportedly been scouted by Manchester Unitedadmitted that there had been interest from those two clubs, while reports earlier this season suggested that the Magpies were still watching him closely.

Pundit Tam McManus notably tipped the 22-year-old to exit Parkhead in the near future, with the former Hibernian man saying: “I do think he has the potential to be a Premier League player.”

Such claims have come amid O’Riley’s stunning form for the Bhoys in 2022, with the one-time Fulham youth asset having emerged as a real “top player” of late according to McManus after scoring four goals and registering ten assists in 45 games for Celtic.

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The 6 foot 2 “magician” – as lauded by talent scout Jacek Kulig – particularly impressed during the club’s eventual Champions League disappointment, with Guillem Balague stating that the player “did not look out of place at all” against the likes of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos in the defeat to Real Madrid at Parkhead.

Such standout displays against Europe’s elite will have undoubtedly piqued the interest of further suitors, and it would be no surprise if offers start flooding in for his signature during January.

Nevertheless, Postecoglou and co simply can’t afford to lose such a crucial figure during the mid-season transfer window, with the £12k-p/w gem having started all but one of Celtic’s top-flight games so far this season. That rare substitute role notably came in the shock defeat away to St Mirren in September.

That illustrates just how vital O’Riley is to the Premiership leaders, with the Hoops needing to do all they can to ensure that he remains at Celtic beyond the end of next month.