Celtic manager Neil Lennon’s description of signing Virgil van Dijk in 2013 shows a gut instinct of a man who knows a player when he sees one:
“I was thinking there must be something wrong with him as I went over to watch him play against Ajax and I was looking around thinking ‘why are there no scouts here?’.”
“I knew we had to get the deal done quickly. We ended up getting him for 2m Euros.”
It wasn’t a one-off fluke either. Gary Hooper was recruited from Scunthorpe in July 2010, just a few months after his appointment, for £2.4m. He went on to score 82 goals in 132 appearances for the Hoops before being sold for £5m to Norwich City.
Emilio Izaguirre was plucked from obscurity in 2010 for just £650,000 and won seven Scottish Premiership titles, four Scottish Cups and three Scottish League Cups before being let go this summer.
Leigh Griffiths was secured for only £1m on a permanent deal from Wolves, with the Scottish international having scored 104 goals during his five and a half years at Parkhead.
The likes of Fraser Forster were also brought in for peanuts (£2m) and offloaded for a profit of £8m when he signed for Southampton in 2014.
Even if you are not a fan of Lennon’s style of play, you have to admit his hit rate for bringing in bargains is hard to argue with, and it seems he is going to be savvy in his recruitment plans once again.
For those who don’t follow the lower tiers of English football, the likes of Charlton’s Joe Aribo, West Brom’s Rekeem Harper and Ipswich Town’s Dylan Crowe will be unknown to many.
Lennon is also apparently delving back into the Dutch leagues in order to pluck out another hidden gem like van Dijk with reports suggesting Fortuna Sittard’s Mark Diemers could also be a target.
On his past track record, though, you have to give the newly appointed Celtic boss the benefit of the doubt that he’ll get things right.
There are calls from supporters to splash out on new signings in order to rebuild the squad this summer but the days of marquee names coming through the doors at Lennoxtown are long gone.
Rightfully, fans are calling for some of the €20m that was received from the Dembele sale to be spent on a new number nine. A quality finisher is needed and it’s something the board should definitely finance.
But in terms of other recruits this summer, fans may have to delve into Football Manager or Transfermarkt to see who they are. From previous experience, though, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing so let’s hope Lennon can bring in some real top undiscovered talents this summer.