Celtic were heavily linked with transfers for a handful of central defenders during the summer window, including a man who has already played 44 times for Celtic, namely Jason Denayer.
Ultimately Lyon proved to be Celtic’s nemesis on two separate occasions in the space of a single transfer window during the summer as they concluded a deal for Denayer shortly before they pulled off a dramatic deadline day deal for Moussa Dembele.
Celtic signed Filip Benkovic on a season-long loan deal to bolster their options in central defence, but it’s difficult to ignore the feeling that they missed out on a bargain deal when Denayer moved to France.
Lyon managed to secure his signature for just £5.6 million – a fee which represents peanuts in the current economic climate for a player of his potential and variety of experience.
Whilst it may be bold to argue that Denayer could have been the next Virgil Van Dijk-esque figure to grace Celtic Park, there is reason to suggest that he could have made a similar impact at the club.
It’s not as if Denayer has the potential to become a defender who is comparable to Van Dijk in terms of his overall quality, as the Liverpool lynchpin has developed into one of the best defenders in world football since he left Celtic in 2015.
But in terms of how important he would have been for Celtic at the heart of the back-four and the club’s potential to make a substantial return on their initial investment in the future, there are certainly parallels to be drawn between the two players.
The Hoops signed the Holland international for a fee of just £2.7 million in 2013, and they were able to command an impressive £14.1 million for his services just two years later when Southampton came calling.
At more than twice the price, Denayer’s move to Lyon wasn’t quite as impressive as Celtic’s shrewd decision to sign Van Dijk, but there’s no doubt he will eventually command a fee in region of what the Saints paid to lure Van Dijk away from Celtic if he continues to shine in Ligue 1.
Meanwhile, in a division in which Celtic are clearly a class above the rest, Van Dijk was able to showcase his forward-thinking instincts on a regular basis as he notched 15 goals in 115 appearances, but Denayer’s record of 6 goals from his 44 appearances for the Bhoys suggests that he could have gone on to match that return if he had re-signed during the summer.
A physical presence to be reckoned with who instinctively commands the back-four, a notable threat in the penalty area and a player whose value is likely to rise exponentially in the coming years, Lyon completed a cunning deal in the summer at Celtic’s expense.
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