Why Celtic should keep hold of Olivier Ntcham amidst widespread interest
According to claims from Italian outlet Tuttomercatoweb, as relayed by the Daily Record, Celtic star Olivier Ntcham has attracted interest from as many as three European clubs ahead of the mid-season trading period in January.
Europa League rivals Roma and Sporting Lisbon are in the race to sign the Frenchman during the upcoming transfer window while Valencia, who are playing in the Champions League this season, have also been credited with an interest in the 23-year-old (Tuttomercatoweb h/t Daily Record).
Ntcham, who is under contract at Celtic until the summer of 2022, fuelled speculations of an early exit from Parkhead last summer, with the Frenchman insisting that Scottish football isn’t competitive enough (h/t Daily Record).
Despite struggling to nail down a regular starting role in the playing XI under the stewardship of Neil Lennon, Ntcham continues to be a key part of the club’s plans moving forward.
The 23-year-old grabbed the headlines earlier in the month with his late improvized winner in the 2-1 victory over Lazio at Rome on Matchday 4 of the UEFA Europa League to propel the Hoops to the knockout rounds of the competition.
Ntcham was handed his first start in the group stages of the Europa League by Lennon and the versatile Frenchman once again proved his worth with a fine all-round display in an eventual 3-1 victory over Rennes.
Born in France to parents of Cameroonian descent, Olivier Ntcham completed his footballing education with Paris FC and Le Havre in his homeland before completing a switch to Man City in 2012.
The 23-year-old struggled to break into the first-team at the Etihad due to stiff competition for places but featured across various age-group levels for the Citizens and also spent time on loan at Girona in the La Liga before joining Celtic in the summer of 2017.
Ntcham has since gone on to make 106 appearances in all competitions for the Hoops, scoring 19 times and setting up another 11 in the process. Those returns certainly make for some decent readings on paper, given that the former French U21 international has featured in a wide variety of roles, not to mention his struggles with injuries over the years.
To put things into perspective, Olivier Ntcham might have struggled to establish himself as an undisputed starter for Celtic in the Scottish Premiership but he is certainly an integral part of the squad and the Hoops would be wise to rebuff any official approaches made for him in January.
With the midfielder still under contract until 2022, Celtic are certainly not under any pressure to cash in on their prized asset.
With Scott Brown and Callum Mcgregor the preferred central midfield pivot and Ryan Christie the first-choice No.10 in Lennon’s 4-2-3-1 system, Ntcham has been forced to enter the field of play as a substitute on numerous occasions this season.
However, the fact that the Frenchman has come good for the Hoops in times of need when Lennon has rotated his squad, with Ntcham featuring in both advanced No.10 and box-to-box No.8 roles in the midfield.
As well as his wide range of qualities and versatility to play in different roles, Ntcham is a player with serious potential. At 23, he still has plenty of time left on his side to make significant adjustments to his game in a bid to reach greater heights.
In other words, the 23-year-old is only going to get better with time and Celtic have every reason to look at him as someone who could be one of the mainstays in their midfield for several years to come.
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Moreover, Ntcham has more than held his own against tougher opposition on the European stage and the Hoops need his quality to put an end to their mediocrity on the continental front.
With that in mind, Celtic holding on to Olivier Ntcham in January should be an absolute no-brainer, as the Hoops look to push on for greater heights under Lennon.