Celtic are closing in on nine in a row. Rangers – briefly – threatened their domestic dominance but, with ten games left, the Bhoys hold a 12-point lead at the top. Barring a capitulation of epic proportions, their grip on the Scottish Premiership remains vice-like.
However, it is their performances in European competitions which dictate whether or not they’re able to keep hold of their prized assets. A disappointing defeat at the hands of FC København ended their Europa League journey at the round of 32 stage this year.
Players want to showcase their talents on the biggest platforms. Champions League football is the dream but going deep in Europe’s second competition is just as useful. It allows individuals to catch the eye.
And this is why Celtic could struggle to retain Odsonne Édouard this summer. The 22-year-old has been the Hoops’ star performer this term. His 21 goals in the Scottish Premiership mean he leads the Golden Boot race. He was also involved in eight goals in the Europa League, making this his most productive season to date.
Clubs have been keeping close tabs on the Frenchman for some time. According to reports in Italy during the winter transfer window, he was being followed by Lazio, Roma and Napoli. Crystal Palace had him on their radar as they looked to solve their goalscoring crisis while Leicester City, Manchester United and Everton are all in the conversation as well.
Édouard is contracted until 2022 but the Daily Record report the club have been speaking with his representatives for some time about the prospect of a new and improved deal to stave off summer interest.
The feeling in Glasgow is that if they can get one more year from the former Paris Saint-Germain man he could follow in the footsteps of former Bhoy Moussa Dembélé. The one-time Fulham forward was linked with high-profile moves for what felt like an eternity but remained at Parkhead for one extra campaign prior to his switch to Lyon.
But with the Celtic No.22 reportedly available for £30million, the champions-elect could be powerless to stop him leaving. For the Bhoys, it’d be a record sale. For a Premier League side, such a fee is now considered the norm. If they feel Édouard fits the profile, most clubs will happily part with that fee for a reliable goal-getter. And that is exactly what the France Under-21 international is.
This season, the Frenchman has averaged 0.94 goals per 90. Like all elite forwards, Édouard is outperforming his expected goals average. But the biggest takeaway from these two metrics is he’s getting into dangerous areas with great regularity – hence his 0.73 expected goals per 90. He’s a perpetual threat for Celtic and they’ve worked out a system to get the best out of him.
However, one thing to note is that he’s a volume player. Édouard is averaging 4.66 shots per 90, a total which would see him rank in the top ten in the Premier League for this metric.
For Édouard to be at his devastating best, he relies on consistent service. If teams are unable to create frequent opportunities for him, there’s no guarantee he’ll be anywhere near as effective as he has been in Scotland.
Having said that, Édouard’s play isn’t solely based on his goalscoring ability. The goals are key, of course, but he isn’t the sort of player who scores and does nothing else.
He’s an aerial battering ram, competing in 3.9 aerial duels per 90 and winning close to 40 per cent. The 6ft 1ins forward isn’t your stereotypical target man, though. He’s a superb and confident ball carrier, with 7.17 dribbles per 90, and he’s able to slalom between opponents as well as powering past them.
Defensively, Édouard is very switched on. He’s averaged more than 1.5 interceptions this term in the league and he’s winning in excess of 1.2 duels. Édouard ticks all the boxes for a modern-day centre-forward. He scores goals, he creates for others – he has nine assists this season – and he’s powerful, quick and skilful. All while doing the dirty work off the ball.
The Celtic striker is ready for a big move. He deserves to have more eyes on him and the only way that happens is by scoring goals in European competitions. The Bhoys, sadly, can’t guarantee that.
Even if he has to move to a mid-table Premier League club first, scoring goals in the English top-flight will convince a top-six side to sign him. It isn’t now or never for Édouard, but the sooner he leaves Parkhead, the sooner he’ll be impressing in the Champions League.