Celtic appear to have a defensive crisis on their hands after failing to keep a clean sheet in any of their last six games – including shipping four goals to Hearts at the weekend.
For most, the issue with the Hoops centre backs has been apparent for a while, with any pairing between Jozo Simunovic, Dedryck Boyata, Erik Sviatchenko and Kristoffer Ajer deemed not good enough for a team looking to build on their unbeaten domestic treble last season.
Building on that includes performing better in Europe – something Celtic didn’t really do despite making the last-32 of the Europa League by finishing third in their Champions League group.
The team conceded 18 goals in their group – including a seven and five-goal hammerings against Paris Saint-Germain and a 3-0 away defeat to Bayern Munich.
Now the 4-0 beating from Hearts at the weekend has just underlined Celtic’s centre back issues and it appears clear to everyone that Brendan Rodgers will have to recruit in January.
But who will he go for? Here, we give you five options who could provide an upgrade in the transfer window:
Rodgers has dipped in to the loan market since taking over as Celtic manager and could do so again in January if permanent options aren’t available to him – that’s why Tuanzebe may be an option. The tall, powerful and fast centre back has been on the fringes of Manchester United’s first team squad for the last two seasons, but has yet to make a big impact starting games and that looks unlikely to come with Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo, Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones all considered better options by Jose Mourinho. If all of those players can stay fit, Tuanzebe will likely find himself out of the squad and looking for games – so Celtic may be an option to look at if he was available on loan.
You have to go to Hannover 96 to find this gem in the Bundesliga. Sane has been at the German club 2013, becoming a regular from the outset and also breaking into the Senegal national team around the same time. As far as no nonsense centre backs go, Sane looks like one of the best available and could be an option for Celtic at a decent fee considering his contract with Hannover is up at the end of the season. He’s at a good age, has good experience and is, most importantly, a good player who could really shore up Celtic’s backline.
Rodgers and Celtic have shown that they want to sign young players before developing and selling on and Mukiele would fit the bill when it comes to that remit. The 20-year-old Montpellier defender isn’t the tallest on this list, but makes up for it with explosive speed and quality on the ball that’s uncommon for a centre back. The only issue for Celtic is that Montpellier only signed Mukiele a year ago and may not be keen to sell him so soon. But his form in Ligue 1 is attracting a number of teams, including Benfica, and the French side might not have much say in the matter if good offers are made. Given his reputation and age, Celtic could steal in with a smaller offer and have a defender with enough potential to sell on for a big price in a few years.
Like Tuanzebe, Clarke-Salter could find himself out on loan come the end of January and his form at Chelsea suggests that he’d be a good signing for the club that gets him. Why could that be Celtic? Rodgers has close ties to Chelsea and should be aware of the youngster after his rise through the academy ranks. He’s classed as a first team player under Antonio Conte, but has made only two appearances for the club – at 20, he’s definitely considered as one for the future. Celtic need a commanding presence at centre half and even though Clarke-Salter is young, he could be that man.
Jansson has been a big part of Leeds’ strong form over recent seasons and it’s probably only a matter of time before he moves to a higher level. The Elland Road club sit seventh in the English Championship and the Swedish defender might feel that they have a chance of promotion to the Premier League. But it’s a competitive division and there’s no guarantee Leeds will even make the play-offs so a move to a higher level could be Jansson’s best option. Celtic would definitely be that higher level and in Jansson the club could be getting a strong, powerful and experienced player capable of going straight into the team and performing.
Celtic fans – who would you like to see signed?