Former Premiership striker Noel Whelan has sung the praises of Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor following his impressive start to 2020, describing the 26-year-old as having “every attribute that you want” in a footballer.
The Scotland international has scored three goals and provided five assists in six appearances since the winter break (as per TransferMarkt) and Whelan feels that he is now coming into the peak of his career.
Speaking about McGregor to Football Insider, he said: “He’s coming into the best years of his career, of his footballing ability. 26 to 30 is usually when you get the best out of yourself. It seems to be coming to fruition, and Celtic seem to have got themselves a very, very good winner with every attribute that you want. Not only is he assisting goals, but he’s scoring goals as well.
“He seems to be loving life at Parkhead, and he’s a player who I’m sure they appreciate the quality he has. He’s started off the second half of this season very well, and he’s setting the standards.”
Whelan is right to laud McGregor’s recent surge in form as well as recognising him as one of the foremost performers in Celtic’s squad. The 26-year-old came to the fore in last week’s 4-0 win at Motherwell, scoring a sensational volley and setting up two of his team’s other three goals. He has six assists in as many Premiership games and he has now scored nine goals this season as well as registering nine assists, putting him fourth in the pecking order among Neil Lennon’s squad for both metrics.
It isn’t just in terms of goal contributions that the midfielder has proven his value to the team, either. He has the highest passing accuracy in Celtic’s squad with an impressive 90.9% and, among those to have played more than once in Celtic’s Europa League campaign, he has the highest passes per game average with 57.2. He also contributed plenty in a defensive sense, with his match average of 1.4 interceptions the fourth highest at Parkhead. [via WhoScored]
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Whelan’s claim that McGregor is “coming into the best years of his career” is endorsed by the improvement to several aspects of the midfielder’s game. He has already surpassed by 50% his six-goal tally from last season and although he is just over halfway to matching his 16 assists from 2018/19, his recent form suggests that a repeat is not out of the question. He also appears well on course to equal or better his highest goals tally for a single season (14 with Notts County in 2013/14). His passing success rate is down on his peak of 93.5% from two seasons ago but up on his 87.1% from last term, while his passes per game average is effectively the same as in 2018/19 (as per WhoScored).
One area where McGregor continues to be the market leader at Celtic is in terms of his indefatigable amount of time on the pitch. He has been the Hoops’ most-used player this season with 3,756 minutes of game-time, starting every Premiership game and completing 90 minutes in all but two of those, with the weekend’s Scottish Cup win over Clyde just the third time all season that he hasn’t been in the team (as per TransferMarkt). That comes off the back of him playing for 5,894 minutes across 69 matches for club and country in 2018/19, more than any other professional footballer in the world (as per celticfc.tv).
The evergreen McGregor has shown no signs of slowing down despite rarely getting a rest. Indeed, as Whelan has suggested, the 26-year-old midfielder may just be embarking on the peak years of an already marvellous career that has seen him play 266 times for Celtic and win 12 trophies with the club.
Celtic fans, what do you make of Whelan’s high praise of McGregor? Comment below with your views!
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