Celtic were officially knocked out of the Champions League on Tuesday night as they were beaten 2-0 by Italian side Lazio in Rome at the Stadio Olimpico.
The Hoops were competing well in the match and had opportunities to take the lead but were unable to make the most of their openings and that allowed the hosts to punish them in the final ten minutes.
Italy international Ciro Immobile came off the bench and struck twice as he eased Cameron Carter-Vickers and Liam Scales out of the way with ease to slot past Joe Hart.
The Hoops, although they have one match left to play, have finished bottom of the Champions League group and will not drop down into the Europa League, which means that they only have domestic football to look forward to heading into the second half of the season.
They have the upcoming January transfer window to improve their squad and Brendan Rodgers could use it to bring in players and bed them in ahead of another shot at European football next season.
One player the Hoops are reportedly looking at is right-back Sam Curtis, who could come in as the long-term replacement for Alistair Johnston.
Celtic transfer news – Sam Curtis
A recent report from 90min named Celtic as one of a host of clubs showing an interest in the St. Patrick’s Athletic full-back ahead of January.
The Hoops are said to have scouted the teenage defender and it now remains to be seen whether or not they will make an approach for his services.
They will face significant competition for the 17-year-old talent if they do decide to enter the race as a number of top teams are eyeing him up.
90min claimed that Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, and treble winners Manchester City are all keen on a deal to land Curtis at the start of 2024. English Championship sides Hull, Middlesbrough, and Leeds are also said to be looking at the Irish dynamo.
The report also added that his current club, St. Patrick’s Athletic, are expecting their academy graduate to move on before the end of their off-season, which is in February of next year.
This suggests that Curtis will be on his way out in January and Celtic could look to win the race for his signature ahead of the other European outfits.
The Hoops can use Liam Scales as an example of their development of players from the Irish top-flight and show the 17-year-old gem that there is a pathway at Parkhead for him to burst onto the scene in Scotland, which he could then use to take a further step in the future.
Liam Scales season in numbers
Celtic’s Irish central defender arrived from Shamrock Rovers in 2021 having played as both a centre-back and a left-back, and has gone on to establish himself as a key player for the Hoops.
After spending the 2022/23 campaign on loan at Aberdeen, the 25-year-old titan has become a regular fixture at the back for Brendan Rodgers this season.
He has started 17 of the club’s 19 matches across the Scottish Premiership and Champions League combined, catching the eye with excellent performers in the former.
The Ireland international has made 2.5 tackles and interceptions and seven ball recoveries per game across 12 league outings for the Hoops.
He has been able to adapt to Scottish football, after a couple of seasons of adaptation – including a loan, and Curtis could follow in his footsteps.
Sam Curtis’ season in numbers
The 17-year-old whiz, who turns 18 in December, enjoyed a fantastic 2023 campaign with St. Patrick’s Athletic and could be a fantastic long-term prospect for Celtic.
Curtis started 34 Premier Division matches over the course of the year – an impressive achievement given his age and inexperience heading into the season – and caught the eye with his performances.
Curtis in 2023 Premier Division (via Sofascore)
The Ireland U21 international made 3.4 tackles and interceptions and 5.2 ball recoveries per game for his side, to go along with an impressive duel success rate of 63% across those 34 outings.
Such were the quality of his displays, the teenage starlet was recognised by his peers as he was voted into the PFAI Team of the Year, which shows how much the gem impressed the players he played with and against.
These statistics and achievements show that Curtis is a promising young talent, which was backed up by journalist Sean O’Connor describing him as a “rising star”.
He could, therefore, come in as the long-term replacement for Johnston at Parkhead, as the 25-year-old gem is seven years older than the Hoops target.
Alistair Johnston’s season in numbers
The Canada international, who was signed from CF Montreal in January of this year, has had a mixed season for the Bhoys during the current campaign.
In the Premiership, the right-back has been in solid form with 2.2 tackles and interceptions and 5.1 ball recoveries per match across ten appearances.
He also won 59% of his duels and these statistics show that the ace has held his own in physical contests and been able to cut out opposition attacks on a regular basis to win possession back for his side to earn himself a Sofascore rating of 7.24.
However, Johnston has averaged a dismal Sofascore rating of 6.5 across five Champions League outings and only made four ball recoveries per game, which is a downgrade on his impressive Premiership form.
He contributed to Celtic’s poor performance on the European stage with those disappointing displays and that is why signing a right-back to be a long-term replacement for him could be a shrewd move by Rodgers.
Curtis’ aforementioned defensive qualities suggest that the potential is there for him to offer more for the Scottish giants, when you consider his tackles, interceptions, ball recoveries, and duel success rate.
Of course, there is no guarantee that he will be able to translate that form over to Scotland but Scales has proven that the transition is possible and the St. Patrick’s starlet could follow in his footsteps as the next Irish gem to make a breakthrough at Parkhead.