Celtic transfers: The six key players in January's window

It may only have been only last week that Celtic manager Neil Lennon stated he expected the club to do little business in the January transfer window.

The toils at Celtic this season experienced by on-loan Brighton centre-back Shane Duffy mean it would be best for all parties if there was an opportunity for him to link-up again with Chris Hughton, credited with an interest in bringing the Republic of Ireland  captain to Nottingham Forest on a permanent deal in this window. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
The toils at Celtic this season experienced by on-loan Brighton centre-back Shane Duffy mean it would be best for all parties if there was an opportunity for him to link-up again with Chris Hughton, credited with an interest in bringing the Republic of Ireland captain to Nottingham Forest on a permanent deal in this window. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

However, that situation has been altered by two factors: the loss of centre-back Christopher Jullien to a knee ligament injury that will sideline him for up to four months, and the loss to Rangers that has rubbled the club’s hopes of 10-in-a-row in leaving them a mammoth 19 points adrift of their Ibrox rivals.

It makes sense then for both an element of pruning and freshening of the squad in the coming weeks as they attempt a miraculous turnaround in the Premiership. That could mean movement involving the following six players:

Celtic: Get the latest team news, match previews and reports

Celtic: Get the latest team news, match previews and reports

Olivier Ntcham

The French midfielder now very much seems surplus to requirements, owing to the recent emergence of David Turnbull and Ismaila Soro in central roles he could occupy. It is known that the 24-year-old wanted to move on in the summer – as did Odsonne Edouard and Kristoffer Ajer. Unlike that pair, though, the 24-year-old has shown few signs of being willing to buckle down despite Lennon’s concerted attempts to get a turn out of a performer undoubtedly talented, but often infuriatingly lackadaisical. It would be no surprise were Celtic willing to sanction a loan move back to his homeland for the remainder of this campaign, having rejected such offers from Bordeaux and Brest in the last window.

Shane Duffy

The personal reasons that led the Republic of Ireland captain to leave Celtic’s winter training camp in Dubai this week were reported not to be a precursor to the centre-back cutting short a season-long loan deal from Brighton that has turned horribly sour. His subsequent closing down of his social media channels amid claims Chris Hughton wants to take him to Nottingham Forest on a permanent basis intimate something could be afoot, though. Sympathy can only be extended to Duffy for how ill-fitting he has appeared after realising a dream move to his boyhood club. The most humane act would be the 28-year-old being put out of his misery. The player produced his career-best football under Hughton at Brighton, who signed him and was in charge as he was voted the club’s player of the year for his contribution to the Angus club retaining their top flight status in 2018-19.

Scott Bain

The keeper is another who has had a dreadful time of it this season. The confidence crisis endured by Vasilis Barkas within two months of his arrival at Celtic in a £4.5million deal from AEK Athens, gave Bain an unexpected chance to reclaim the no.1 spot he held in the latter months of the 2018-19 campaign. However, some skittish showings resulted in Lennon turning to youngster Conor Hazard before recently restoring Barkas. All of which makes the former Dundee keeper third choice and ripe for a loan stint to earn game time.

Ben Davies

It seems that the Preston North End centre-back has been on Celtic’s radar for an age. Never would a move for the Welsh international make more sense than now for both parties. The 27-year-old is out of contract in the summer and has been resistant to signing a new deal with the Championship club. Jullien’s loss, Duffy’s struggles and the certainty that Ajer will move on next summer, makes Celtic’s need to remake their central defence an imperative.

The problem for the Parkhead side is that Davies is attracting interest from a number of clubs. One slated suitor Sheffield United appears unlikely, and another reported English party, Bournemouth might have limited appeal. However Belgian side Genk and Serie A team Udinese could force Celtic into an unwanted salary auction were they to make an offer.

Declan Gallagher

A potentially more straightforward option for Celtic than Davies as they focus on bolstering their central defensive options. There appears little doubt that the 29-year-old Motherwell mainstay would jump at joining the boyhood club with which he came through the ranks, before being unable to make a senior breakthrough. Out of contract in the summer, the player who has impressed mightily in cementing his place in Steve Clarke’s Scotland side – would trigger a year’s option held by the Fir Park side were he to play a further six league games this season.

However, if Celtic wanted him, they would make a move before that 25-game threshold came into play in February. The issue is whether he would be considered the necessary quality to prosper at Celtic following a largely journeyman career. However, his ability to step into the international domain with such aplomb suggests he would be a better current option than Nir Bitton or Duffy.

Alfie Doughty

The 21-year-old Charlton Athletic left-sided winger/full-back is said to be the fastest player in the EPL. Celtic’s pursuit of him has, in contrast, been a slow burner. The club kept tabs on him throughout the summer. This did not pre-empt a move then despite several offers, but they are understood to have retained an interest.

The paucity of wide options at Celtic created by James Forrest’s long-term loss and Mikey Johnston’s careful return to contention following a year of injury problems, could see them step up their pursuit of another player out of contract in the summer and set on pastures new as he rejects any new deals presented by the League One club.

It is now believed Rangers are monitoring the situation. We may, though, be some way off the one-time much relished ‘tug of war’ scenarios involving the rivals, Stoke City this week having lodged a concrete bid. Moreover, Forrest is scheduled for a return to action from a foot fracture that has sidelined him since September by the end of the month – precisely the timescale given for Doughty to have recovered from a troublesome hamstring problem that has kept him out since October.

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