The year is 2012 and with the assistance of Ian Bankier, Celtic have just won the league. It was a landmark moment for the Bhoys, one that signalled the start of a remarkable nine straight SPFL crowns.
The likes of Neil Lennon and Brendan Rodgers engineered an incredible period of success but it didn’t come without its flaws.
One of those was the inability to hold onto some of their best players.
Celtic saw the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Moussa Dembele and Kieran Tierney head off to pastures new in pursuit of not only a better pay package but also a greater chance of European success.
They have duly replaced a few of them in the transfer market. Odsonne Edouard has scored 81 goals since arriving at Parkhead while Kristoffer Ajer has often been the glue holding Celtic’s defence together.
That being said, replacing a player like Van Dijk is particularly difficult to do. The Dutchman made 115 appearances for the Bhoys and has since gone on to win the Champions League and Premier League with Liverpool.
He is known as one of the best defenders in world football, defining the role of a ball-playing centre-half.
Though, Celtic should already have had their next Van Dijk in their clutches once he left.
That’s because in 2012, the year that started Celtic’s dominance, Bankier missed out on the simple acquisition of a French centre-half.
That happened to be Willy Boly. The centre-back was at Auxerre in Ligue 1 at the time and was valued at a little over £1m.
Lennon admitted the club were interested in his services but he would ultimately stay in France for another two years. That was before he went to Braga and then ended up at Wolves in England.
Boly has since become a wall and a pillar of consistency in defence, being linked with highbrow moves to clubs like Arsenal.
Similarly to Van Dijk, the 30-year-old is impeccably strong and has plenty of pace to get him out of tricky situations. Furthermore, he’s tough to beat and can play out capably from the back.
Speaking about his qualities last year, Wolves journalist Tim Spiers said: “Boly is just ridiculous. I mean, it looks like he’s never been away. He looks a better player to me.
“Boly makes such an impact, he rarely makes mistakes, is so dominant in both boxes and vastly underrated by anyone outside the club.”
Of course, we cannot merely say that Boly is as good as Van Dijk because that would be incorrect. However, what we can do is compare the statistics.
Both of their pass success rates were north of 80% while the duo completed over four clearances per match.
Celtic have signed a number of defenders since missing out on Boly but given his performances in England, he would have been their dream replacement.