Celtic must take firm January stance amid European interest in £4.5m “specimen” – opinion

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According to journalist Ignazio Genuardi, Lille have earmarked Olivier Ntcham as a possible replacement for Boubakary Soumare.

What’s the word?

Reports in recent weeks have suggested Soumare is a target for the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham ahead of the upcoming January transfer window. And according to Genuardi, Lille are preparing a move for Celtic’s Ntcham as his direct replacement in central midfield.

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It is further claimed that the French side had scouts present at Celtic’s Europa League clash against Rennes last month at Celtic Park to find out more about Ntcham.

Midfield powerhouse

Still only 23, Ntcham has proven himself to be an astute £4.5m signing for Neil Lennon’s side. The Frenchman has already played an impressive 111 times for the club, netting 20 goals and providing a further 11 assists. Part of the attraction of his style of play is that he can play in a number of roles in the middle of the park: an anchor man, more box-to-box, and even in a more advanced position.

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Completing the full 90 minutes in the Scottish Premier League this season has been less than straight-forward however, doing so on just three occasions. But whilst that may suggest he may not be as indispensable as some of his teammates, Lennon himself has admitted that Ntcham’s injury-time winner against Lazio, the Frenchman has settled down into an important player for the Hoops.

He said (as quoted by The Herald): “The goal in Rome may just have changed his whole outlook on things. But he has really settled down now and he is training very well. He has played brilliantly in the games he has played. He’s been unfortunate not to play more often, that’s just down to the quality of the rest.”

And his style of play means a possible exit would be incredibly hard for Celtic to replace. Lennon described him as a physical “specimen”, and that he is “really high calibre in his manipulation of the ball”. Whilst there may be clubs interested in taking him away from Celtic Park, the club desperately need to do everything they can to keep hold of him.

Meanwhile, Celtic fans react to this ace’s performance against Aberdeen.