Since bursting onto the scene as a fearless and skilled 18-year-old with Manchester United during the 2013/14 season, Adnan Januzaj’s career has stalled drastically, with his personal development having ground to a halt in the last two years.
Loan moves to Borussia Dortmund and Sunderland proved fruitless for the Belgian youngster, and it now seems that the Red Devils are willing to sell the player who shone during David Moyes‘ short Old Trafford reign.
Moyes’ former club Real Sociedad are among the front runners for Januzaj’s signature with United reportedly looking for a fee in the region of £8million for the 22-year-old.
However, perhaps rather surprisingly, Scottish champions Celtic have emerged as contenders for the United youngster’s signature with Betfair slashing their odds on Januzaj’s potential arrival at Celtic Park.
The rumour has come out of left field. But joining the Bhoys could be the perfect opportunity for Januzaj to get his career back on track at this important juncture. And from the club’s point of view, having the precociously talented Belgium international amid their ranks, provided he can rediscover his form, would be a huge boost to their hopes of continued domestic dominance and their European ambitions.
Away From the Premier League Bubble
The loan move to Dortmund two seasons ago was supposed to give Januzaj the chance to escape the Premier League bubble and clock some much needed playing time to help him grow as a player.
The first part of the theory was fine: in the Bundesliga, he wouldn’t have faced nearly as much scrutiny as he was subjected to at Old Trafford; stepping out of his comfort zone would have helped Januzaj grow on a personal and professional level.
The second part, however, the need for minutes out on the pitch, proved the Dortmund switch to be wholly misguided. At the time, with Marco Reus, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan at then-BVB manager Thomas Tuchel’s disposal, Januzaj never stood a chance of cracking the first XI. Obvious in hindsight, it should have been equally as easy to predict beforehand.
With just six substitute appearances in the first half of the 2014/15 Bundesliga season, totalling a paltry 160 minutes, United made the decision to cut Januzaj’s loan short in January.At Parkhead, Januzaj would still feel the buzz, the intensity and excitement of playing for one of Europe’s biggest clubs. But he would be doing so under reduced pressure. As part of a team which dominates domestically, there is room for much more freedom of expression.
An attacking player of the Celtic transfer target‘s gifts would be allowed to dribble, to try the tricks and defence-splitting passes that saw him shoot to prominence at Old Trafford, without the worry that one or two errant attempts could see him jettisoned from the team.
Rodgers and Januzaj: A Perfect Match
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has never been afraid to give opportunities to young players throughout his career, particularly ones with the kind of flair and technical ability that gets fans out of their seats.
At Swansea City, Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer developed into dynamic and devastating wingers under his tutelage; Raheem Sterling went from promising teenager to £49million superstar while Rodgers was in charge of Liverpool; and Patrick Roberts and Moussa Dembélé are currently shining in Glasgow’s East End.
Januzaj may have fallen by the wayside in recent years but if anyone can restore the 22-year-old to his former glories, it’s Rodgers. The Northern Irishman encourages expansive, attacking football and is tactically astute enough to tailor a role to the specific needs of a talented yet flawed individual.
Under Moyes, United were a team struggling with the transition away from Sir Alex Ferguson. But Januzaj breathed new life into a side that appeared dissatisfied and demotivated.
Then came Louis van Gaal who, despite a strong record of developing young prodigies into top-class professionals, preached an overprescribed philosophy that suffocated individual expression. It’s no wonder Januzaj didn’t fit in.
Re-united with Moyes last season, Januzaj walked into a no-win situation at the Stadium of Light: a doomed team with a manger ravaged by failing to deliver on expectations for three years.
Januzaj has reached a fork in the road in his career path. If he has any hope of fulfilling the promise of his teenage years, it is crucial that he makes the right decision. If an offer from Celtic and Rodgers is forthcoming, he must take it.