Whether beneficial or detrimental to the Scottish champions’ ambitions, Celtic have developed something of a reputation for signing promising young players that eventually develop into top-class entities, the two most obvious examples being Tottenham’s imposing anchorman Victor Wanyama and Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk – now the most expensive defender in the history of the beautiful game.
Exposure to European football, especially when coupled with the more rigorous demands of the Scottish top flight, undoubtedly plays a key part in that. Not only does it put such youngsters against high-quality opponents, but it also showcases them to potential suitors. Those who step up their games on the continental stage don’t go unnoticed for very long.
And for any scouts watching Celtic’s 1-0 win over Zenit in the Europa League on Thursday night, midfielder Olivier Ntcham will have undoubtedly caught their eye. Many tipped him as a smart signing when Brendan Rodgers snapped up the 22-year-old from Manchester City last summer and that’s already proving the case, with five goals from midfield in just 16 Scottish Premiership starts.
Ntcham didn’t get on the scoresheet on Thursday but he was a consistent goal threat, making the most attempts to find the net of any player on the pitch, created opportunities for others with one chance and three accurate crosses, and made key contributions in winning the ball back with two tackles and three interceptions.
It was an incredibly dynamic display from the Frenchman – who Transfermarkt value at just £1.62million – and the power he injected into the midfield highlighted how well-suited he would be to the Premier League game, which implores huge strength and stamina from those in the engine room.
And considering how Moussa Dembele has performed slightly below expectations this season, scoring nine in 26, after being hotly tipped to move to the Premier League last summer, it does raise an interesting question of which player would be a bigger hit in the English top flight. Let us know by voting below…