Celtic’s Dembélé contingency ready and Abel

 • by Sam McGuire
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Celtic are in the market for a striker this summer. Brendan Rodgers recently spoke out in the press about the possibility of signing on-loan Odsonne Édouard on a permanent basis for what would be a club record fee.

The £7million price tag may put the Bhoys off, however, and alternatives are reportedly being looked at. According to TuttoMercatoWeb, a news outlet in Italy, Celtic have presented an offer to Abel Hernández and his agent, Pablo Bentancur.

The report claims the Scottish Premiership champions-elect have offered Hernández, whose contract with Hull City expires in the summer, a three-year deal and are hoping to beat Fiorentina and Sampdoria to his signature.

While Édouard has a lot of potential, Paris Saint-Germain know this and are unlikely to do Celtic any favours during negotiations. The Scottish side aren’t flush with cash and may prefer to go for a player who has a proven track record. Hernández would be a coup for the Hoops.

Capped 27 times by Uruguay, he cost Hull £10million on deadline day in 2014 when he swapped Serie A for the Premier League. While in Italy with Palermo, he was touted as Edinson Cavani‘s long-term successor. He averaged one goal every four games for the club and was even a Juventus transfer target at one point, according to reports.

It’s clear he’s too good for the Championship having netted 27 goals in 3,700 minutes at that level but fans are yet to see whether he can cut it in the Premier League. He’s played a combined 2,800 minutes in the English top flight over two seasons but found the back of the net on just eight occasions. Playing for a struggling Tigers side out of their depth didn’t help him lay down a marker.

An Achilles injury ruled him out for the majority of this season but in the 571 minutes he’s played in England’s second tier, he’s bagged seven goals and his inclusion in the starting XI has seen Nigel Adkins’ men climb to relative safety.

Is Hernández good enough for Celtic?

When he’s fully-fit there’s absolutely no doubt he’s good enough to lead the line for Rodgers. He’s much more of an all-rounder than his finishes make him out to be. The majority of those come from within ten yards of the goal, painting him to be a poacher who relies on opportunities being created for him.

To an extent, this is true. If a team is going to see the best of Hernández then there needs to be a supply line straight to him inside the penalty area. But he’s much more than just a goalscorer and this is why he seems ideally suited to Celtic.

For starters, this season alone he’s averaging 1.1 open play key passes per 90 minutes. Granted it’s a small sample size. But it still shows he’s a player capable of creating and not just finishing.

The Bhoys don’t just rely on their strikers to score the goals. Scott Sinclair, James Forrest and Patrick Roberts are all expected to chip in and it’s why they need a focal point to the team who isn’t obsessed with getting on the scoresheet himself.

Hernández could supplement those wide forwards just as he does now at Hull.

In the screenshot above, he’s picked the ball up in a deeper area and carried it towards the QPR defence. The two fronting him up are determined not to allow him to cut onto his favoured left foot. He rolls the ball onto his right side before playing a pass into the path of Liverpool loanee Harry Wilson in one swift movement.

It’s not groundbreaking but it shows he’s an intelligent individual who is aware of his surroundings as well as his own weaknesses.

Again, this isn’t anything that will make it onto Hernández’s highlight reel but it shows how he could be valuable to Celtic. He drops into a deeper position to offer himself up for a pass. He’s got one player behind him and one closing in on him from the front. The more touches he takes, the easier it is for him to be dispossessed.

As soon as the ball reaches him he plays it around the corner and into the space between the right sided centre-back and the right-back. Straight into the path of Kamil Grosicki. The Pole made a run similar to the sort Sinclair makes when playing at Parkhead. The former Swansea City winger thrives in space and Hernández is used to playing alongside wide forwards with a similar profile.

Celtic have the personnel to do some real damage on the counter-attack. In the picture above, Hernández is in his own half. He rushes to get onto a loose ball before playing a delicious outside-of-the-boot ball forward for Grosicki to latch onto.

The Hull No.7 races clear and rounds the keeper before putting his effort wide. The invention to play such a pass isn’t something usually associated with a player like the former Peñarol man.

But he’s full of surprises. He’s got the ability to lead the line for Rodgers’ team but he’s also capable of playing alongside Moussa Dembélé. The dynamic between the pair could be an interesting one with both able to drop deep as well as play on the shoulder of the last man. His arrival could be the catalyst to get the French sensation firing again. On a free transfer, Hernández is a no brainer.

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