It’s looking likely that the new Celtic manager will be Tony Mowbray—and he will need decent funds in which to mould a squad into the shape that will accommodate his free- flowing, attacking style of football.
It’s not outwith the realms of possibility, of course, that one of our top stars will have to be sold to help fund the new regime—knowing our board we should remain realistic about that—however, this scenario is not necessarily to the detriment of the team.
Selling Artur Boruc, for example, would create funds for a quality central defender to partner Gary Caldwell, and would not present such a loss to the balance of the team as selling Scott Brown or Aiden McGeady.
One thing is clear: whatever the source of the funds, funds must be made available.
No more Willo Floods, Paddy McCourts, or "works in progress."
Celtic undoubtedly have a nucleus of first team players of genuine quality—but this nucleus needs further additions of quality.
The deadwood must also be cast adrift. Artur Boruc does not fall into this category—I’ve already explained the reasoning behind moving him on- and Shunsuke Nakamura, I’m sure, would delight Tony Mowbray if he decided to stay.
His heart, however, seems set on a move to La Liga after spending four years in Scotland.
By deadwood I mean the likes of Mark Brown, Lee Naylor, Stephen McManus, Massimo Donati, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, and Chris Killen. We should take any offer going for these players.
Some might say that’s harsh in particular on the captain, McManus, and the Dutchman Vennegoor of Hesselink—but the former is decidedly suspect at the back, certainly not the composed figure he was showing potential to be back in 2006/2007, and the former is out half of every season due to injury.
Celtic would benefit from a new captain and the only option available for Mowbray would be to make a clean break for it, and offload McManus, so that he could install either my favoured choice Gary Caldwell, or Scott Brown.
NEW CELTIC XI?
Goalkeeper: Lukasz Zaluska.
Artur Boruc, in my opinion, has been the best Celtic goalkeeper in living memory.
However, if one of our top stars has to be sold I’d sacrifice Artur over Brown or McGeady. Borucs form was erratic last term and it may be time to sell, whilst he can still command a decent price, which would be around the £5m mark.
That money could go towards a quality central defender, to replace Stephen McManus, who is not up to the task. Lukasz Zaluska proved himself a very able keeper for Dundee United last season, and would be a quality replacement.
Celtic should also have the highly rated American Dominic Cervi tied up by the end of the summer, the youngster having been granted an Italian passport, so this should also see current no.2 Mark Brown off to pastures new.
Left back: Sylvinho (Unattached, free)
Although he’s 35, Sylvinho would be joining a young team and his experience—twice a European Cup winner with Barcelona—would bring much needed stability to the new regime.
In Januray, Sylvinho’s agent expressed the players desire to come to Celtic Park.
If that’s still the case, we should make our move as soon as Mowbray is in place.
Central Defence: Gary Caldwell—captain
After a rocky start in Glasgow, Caldwell has proved himself to be a fine defender, and not only that, but of captain material. He’s a commanding centre half, was the lynchpin of Mowbray’s Hibs side, and should be given the captains armband from Stephen McManus.
Central Defence: Carlos Cuellar (Aston Villa, £5m)
Cuellar might prove a controversial choice for some, but the former Rangers man has failed to command a first team spot at Aston Villa since moving to Ibrox. The Spaniard was a stand out in the SPL, and instrumental in Rangers charge to the UEFA Cup Final in 2008, and a bid of £5m may be enough to tempt Villa.
Despite being a former Ger, I think any complaints would soon die down as Cuellar is a fine defender. Another option could be the veteran Sol Campbell, out of contract this summer.
Campbell would undoubtedly add steel and experience to the Celtic back line.
Right back: Andy Hinkel
Hinkel proved himself last season to be a competent defender and good crosser.
The jury is still partly out on the German- he can still be caught out by pace—but for now he should fit comfortably into Mowbray’s style of play.
Left Midfield: Aiden McGeady
McGeady had his ups and downs under Strachan, and will be hoping Mowbray’s arrival will allow him to express himself more freely.
McGeady likes to cut inside, a trait frowned upon by Strachan, but likely to be encouraged under Mowbray as he looks to expand his attacking footballing philosophy with the kind of quality player not available to him at Hibs or West Brom.
Central Midfield: Scott Brown
Brown didn’t have an altogether successful first season, partly down to a family tragedy, but he fully deserved his Player of the Year award last term.
A battling, marauding box to box midfielder, Brown will welcome the arrival of Mowbray, the man who gave him his big chance at Hibs.
Central Midfield: James McCarthy (Hamilton, £3m)
McCarthy is the up and coming talent of the Scottish game, and the young Irishman is a self confessed fan of the club.
A midfield partnership of Brown and McCarthy would be exciting and dynamic, and get the fans off their seats.
Right midfield: Shaun Maloney
If reports are true, though, Celtic have tabled a £2m two year deal for the little Japanese genius, Shunsuke Nakamura, to stay. I’m hoping he accepts—his skill, vision, passing, movement and killer free kicks will be sorely missed.
The chances are, however, that he will move on to Spain. Nakamura stated it was his desire to one day play in Spain when he signed for Celtic, and with Espanyol having tabled an offer, this looks increasingly likely.
That being the case, it’s time for Shaun Maloney to step up and show why Celtic bought him back from Aston Villa.
Maloney and McGeady interchanging on the wings could fit Mowbray’s footballing philosophy to a tee, and like Nakamura, Maloney can be a menace from free kicks.
Striker: Scott McDonald
You can level any criticism you like at Celtics other two mis-firing strikers, Samaras and Vennegoor of Hesselink, but not one of those would apply to McDonald.
Hard working, industrious, and scorer of over 50 goals since his arrival from Motherwell, McDonald will surely be one of the first names on the team sheet under Mowbray.
Striker: Steven Fletcher (Hibernian, £3m)
Celtic failed in their bid to get Fletcher in January, but the youngster is a protégé of Tony Mowbray in his time at Hibs, and you wouldn’t bet against the new manager making him a top priority.
Fletcher and McDonald would make a dangerous striking partnership.