This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Mohamed Elyounoussi flopped at Southampton, but his record at previous clubs suggests he could be the big-game player Celtic need to make an impact in Europe.
Celtic have won eight consecutive titles and three consecutive domestic trebles, but to make a genuine charge for European success you don’t just need a well-rounded squad, you need a difference-maker in the big games, someone who will stand up and be counted when the lights are brightest.
Liverpool have Mohamed Salah, Real Madrid had Cristiano Ronaldo, Barcelona have Lionel Messi and the list goes on.
And while Elyounoussi mustered a rather pathetic zero goals and zero assists in 16 Premier League games for the Saints, history suggests he could be the man for the Hoops in Europe.
A quick look at the Norwegian’s European numbers offers immediate promise – he has 12 direct goal contributions in 27 games, an impressive return for a winger playing for some of the weaker sides in either continental competition – FC Basel and Sarpsborg 08 FF.
A deeper delve into his numbers though reveals his effectiveness when it matters most.
He scored the opening goal in Basel’s 2-0 win over Benfica that sent his side through to the last 16 of the Champions League in 2017, and followed that up by scoring one and assisting one in the historic 2-1 win at the home of Manchester City.
Basel were eliminated at the round of 16 due to their heavy defeat in the home leg, but he ripped a Pep Guardiola side containing the likes of Leroy Sane, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Aymeric Laporte and John Stones to shreds.
Two years before that, in the Europa League, his Sarpsborg side progressed from a group of death containing Fenerbahce, Ajax and – you guessed it – Celtic.
Sarpsborg are currently ranked as the 448th best team in Europe, and while that number may have been slightly higher back then, he basically carried an average side through a tough group and into the knockout rounds.
The 25 year-old scored once in an away win over the Turkish side, once in a win at Parkhead, and outdid himself again by grabbing a goal and assist in his side’s home victory over the Hoops, per Transfermarkt.
Quite simply, this is a player who loves the big stage. Very few players can go to the Etihad and run two-time Champions League winner Danilo ragged, but that’s exactly what he did.
How and when Neil Lennon opts to use Elyounoussi remains to be seen, but he would be wise to offer the winger a chance on the big stage when the Europa League kicks off in two weeks.