Why Nathanael Mbuku would be a good long-term signing for Celtic
According to French outlet Foot Mercato (h/t Glasgow Live), Celtic have been credited with an interest in highly-rated Stade Reims winger Nathaneal Mbuku in the January transfer window.
As per the report, the Hoops have made an offer for the 18-year-old rising star but face stiff competition from Italian side Parma and La Liga outfit Villarreal in their pursuit of the Reims prodigy. Neil Lennon is on the lookout for wide attacking options in the winter market as he bids to close the gap on Rangers atop the Scottish Premiership standings.
Mbuku spent his youth career at several lower division clubs in France before completing his development at Stade Reims. After impressing for the club’s reserve side during the 2018-19 campaign, the youngster made his professional debut in Ligue 1 against Marseille last term. Having made just 11 league appearances for Reims in his breakthrough season, the nippy winger has gone from strength to strength this season.
The teenager has established himself in a more prominent role at Reims, making 13 appearances in Ligue 1 so far this season. Ten of those have come as starts with Mbuku scoring his first competitive goal with a spectacular overhead kick in the 4-0 rout of Montpellier back in October. Having registered an assist as well, the France U-18 international has caught the eye with his potential.
Celtic, meanwhile, can certainly do with more depth in their wide attacking options. Injuries to James Forrest and Mikey Johnston have left Lennon with Mohamed Elyounoussi as the only recognised winger in the ranks. The latter is still working his way back to full fitness after a long lay-off while Forrest has been out of the mix since September.
With Elyounoussi due to return to Southampton following the expiry of his loan spell at the end of the season, Celtic certainly need to line up some alternatives. The Hoops have parted ways with the likes of Scott Sinclair, Jonny Hayes and Lewis Morgan in recent windows without actually replacing them. That clearly explains their lack of quality back-up on the flanks.
Putting things into context, Nathaneal Mbuku ticks plenty of boxes and can be an excellent long-term signing for the Hoops. The French teenager has already started to deliver on his promise at Reims and looks set for a bright future in the game. That he has been playing regularly in one of the elite leagues in Europe, despite being just 18, speaks volumes of his talent and potential.
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Nathaneal Mbuku isn’t quite the finished article at 18 and still has plenty of room for improvement. Celtic should, therefore, handle his development very carefully if they do end up striking a deal for the teenager this month. Neil Lennon should look to gradually phase him into the mix during the second half of the campaign and the imminent departure of Elyounoussi would then open the door for him to stake a claim as a regular starter at Parkhead next term.
Celtic might well need to pay a hefty premium for an 18-year-old if they opt to firm up their interest in Mbuku, who still has a contract at Reims until 2023. Having said that, the French starlet represents excellent value for money with an eye on the long-term plans.