Kieran Tierney has been linked with a £25 million move to Everton but it should be England’s bigger clubs who should be making a move for the left-back, writes Joel Sked.
If speculation is to be believed Kieran Tierney will vacate Celtic Park for Everton and the Premier League, a move which will prompt mourning in the east end of Glasgow and Celtic households throughout Scotland.
A player who is very much one of their own will not be wearing the green and white hoops for the first time in his domestic career.
Fans could be forgiven for thinking that Tierney may buck the trend of modern football to become a one-club man with the team he grew up supporting from the stands. It is a view which may border on blinkered but there is a semblance of reason behind it.
In a revealing interview with the Sunday Mail last month Tierney spoke about his love for grassroots football, how he gleaned so much happiness from playing with friends, his desire to enjoy the sport at its most primitive, most original, most authentic level. It would have been easy to read that and come away with the view that Celtic - and the Bullfrog pub team - are his past, present and future.
If the player is unavailable for a Celtic game there is a good chance he will be in among the support with friends, soaking up the atmosphere, rather than in a private box. Even as a player he still acts as a fan, interacting before, during and after games, even taking the loudspeaker to conduct supporters.
However, the 21-year-old is an ultra-competitive and ambitious player. He has excelled at European level and with the national team, going up against the likes of Arjen Robben, Lionel Messi and Raheem Sterling. Any player with the right mentality and attitude would want to test themselves against such talent on a weekly rather than monthly basis.
The rise of Andy Robertson, who is not too dissimilar to Tierney in his love for Celtic, the recognition he has received and a Champions League appearance may have turned Tierney’s head, altering his mindset, to see his immediate future away from Celtic Park.
It would only be natural.
Until Robertson roared onto the scene at Liverpool, winning the left-back spot from Spaniard Alberto Moreno, Tierney was recognised as the more talented of the two players, the one who appeared to have a higher ceiling in how they could develop. That belief has been modified.
Yet, if the figures reported are correct, Everton will pay around three times as much for Tierney as Liverpool did for Robertson from Hull City.
In part that is due to the situation of the selling club. Hull City had just been relegated from the Premier League, while Celtic are in a very strong trading position after fine work behind the scenes, previous high player sales and Champions League participation. It would blow the previous highest sale out of the water.
Still, are England’s and Europe’s elite missing a trick in allowing Everton to complete a deal for the player, failing to learn from the case of Virgil van Dijk?
The Dutch centre-back oozed class in Scotland while coasting in neutral. He never looked like he required the use of his gears. Fielded in the middle of defence, Van Dijk could have been stationed anywhere on the pitch and he’d have been one of, if not the best player in the country.
His performances at Southampton were like those at Celtic. He always appeared to be able to go up a level or three if required.
At a time when managers and pundits alike were bemoaning the lack of options at centre-back, Van Dijk made England’s elite look foolish. Liverpool had to pay a reported £75 million for his services, more than six times as much as Southampton paid Celtic, when they could, and should, have cut out the middleman.
It comes down to the snobbish view and superiority complex English football’s elite have over Scottish football. They can’t be seen recruiting from Scotland so have to wait to see how a player performs elsewhere before paying an inflated price. Yet, they would be more than happy parting with money for a talent from Ukraine, the Netherlands or Portugal.
Everton is a decent move for Tierney. They are a club who should be pushing to make the Premier League’s top six a top seven. They are a club steeped in history with a large and passionate fan base and they have ambitious plans.
However, they had to rely on Sam Allardyce to get them out of trouble last season and have finished 11th twice in the past four campaigns.
Looking at England’s top six, two famous clubs are in clear need to have a top-end left-back: Arsenal and Manchester United.
Both should have recognised both the impact of Robertson at Liverpool and the potential and current talent of Tierney to see he would be a shrewd signing. Dogged, combative, versatile and all the hallmarks of a modern full-back. A player with a winning mentality and Champions League experience, one which has captained club and country aged 20.
Everton, with a history of great Scottish talent, will be signing an exceptional talent, but at the same time bigger, more successful clubs will be missing out on a snip, £25 million for a left-back for the next decade.
If a deal does go through Celtic should ensure there is a sell-on clause inserted because it would unlikely be too long before England’s, and perhaps Europe’s, elite will be fighting it out to part with a huge fee. A fee far higher than the one they could have paid now for the real deal.