There have been mixed emotions among Celtic supporters in the Transfer Tavern this week, with many disappointed with their side’s performance in defeat to Anderlecht on Tuesday night, yet some were satisfied given the Bhoys qualified for the Europa League.
Brendan Rodgers’ men went into their final Champions League group stage clash in third place in Group B and knowing that they had a superior head to head record over the Belgian giants, having won 3-0 in Brussels back in September. However, the Scottish heavyweights produced an insipid display to go down 1-0 at Celtic Park on Tuesday night, with Jozo Simunovic’s own goal just after the hour mark enough to secure victory for the visitors, but not enough to dispose Celtic of third place and thus a spot in the last 32 of the Europa League.
Consequently, there have been differing emotions among our resident Bhoys fans in the Tavern this week, yet many are already turning their attentions to the upcoming January transfer window, which is a key one for Celtic given their likely European commitments at the start of the summer.
And reports that Premier League side Brighton are considering launching a big money move for striker Moussa Dembele is something those Celtic fans lining up at the bar have been discussing this week, what with the Frenchman having scored eight goals in 16 games for Rodgers’ side this term.
The 21-year-old has been linked with a whole host of clubs in recent months, including Manchester United and Tottenham, but it is Chris Hughton’s Brighton who are the latest to express an interest, in a move which Dembele simply cannot make in January.
And that’s because staying at Celtic would see him playing Europa League football in the second half of the campaign, while the risks involved in a move to Hughton’s Brighton are clear for all to see.
Ultimately, Celtic were humbled in the Champions League this season, with heavy defeats at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain underlining just how far away they remain from Europe’s elite. And although the Europa League still contains the likes of Arsenal, AC Milan, Lazio, and Lyon, the whole competition is slightly closer to the level Rodgers’ side are at.
And, as such, the Bhoys should be significantly more competitive come the first knockout stage in February, and while it would still be a hugely tough ask for Rodgers’ men to win the competition, they have a greater chance than in the Champions League.
Yet keeping Dembele is fundamental to their hopes of going deep into the latter stages, as his incredible eye for goal and ability to conjure up a chance out of nothing have played a key part in Celtic’s wonderful form since Rodgers took over back in 2016.
Not only should the lure of more European football be enough to convince Dembele against Brighton, but the fact that Brighton are one of many sides in the Premier League that could go down must be of huge concern.
Ultimately, although Hughton’s men have made a fine start to life in the top-flight, the Seagulls know that a few defeats over Christmas and the New Year could plunge them into trouble – it’s hardly a selling point for someone like Dembele, who knows that taking the gamble could see him playing Championship football come August.
As such, it’s too big a risk for him to take at this stage of his career. There are no guarantees at all that Brighton will be playing Premier League football next term, whereas more European football and the chance to write his name into Celtic history with another unbeaten season is very much on at Parkhead.
And with the Bhoys not needing to sell their prized asset, the 21-year-old must stay at Celtic beyond the January window in a bid to keep his development ticking along.
Celtic fans… what do you think? Let us know!