Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Rivaldo and Alessandro Del Piero have all been linked with a move to Celtic in the past.
Brad Friedel will be remembered as one of the Premier League’s finest goalkeepers, but his career path could have been different had he signed with Celtic in 1993. The American keeper, who had just been denied a work permit to sign for Nottingham Forest, spent time on trial with the Hoops after accepting Liam Brady's invitation to train with the club. Friedel told ESPN that he “almost signed” only for his transfer fee to be out of Celtic’s budget.
Republic of Ireland international Seamus Coleman also spent a week on trial with Celtic. The Scottish Sun reported that Coleman impressed Hoops boss Gordon Strachan before Everton swooped in to secure his signature for a bargain fee of £60,000.
In 2010, the Bhoys came close to sealing a deal for former England international Sol Campbell. The defender was seeking a new club after a brief second spell with Arsenal. Campbell told the Telegraph that he “would give Celtic everything" if he signed and travelled to Celtic Park to discuss the move. However, the ex-Notts County man would end up opting to stay in England with Newcastle United.
A year later, Celtic tried to lure Manchester City left-back Wayne Bridge to the club. According to the Mirror, City offered to massively subsidise the players’ wages to help force through a season-long loan move. Despite the best efforts of both clubs, Bridge decided that he didn’t fancy a spell in Scottish football and would eventually join West Ham United.
Tommy Burns built an exciting Celtic front-line featuring Paolo Di Canio and Jorge Cadete, but he came agonisingly close to adding David Ginola to that line-up. The Herald Scotland reported that Ginola had encouraging talks at Parkhead before deciding on a move to Newcastle United just hours later.
Legendary Juventus winger Alessandro Del Piero is another high-profile name that could have signed with Cetlic. Del Piero spoke to Sky Sports about how much he admired the atmosphere at Celtic Park and admitted that he was “in touch” for a couple of seasons with the Glasgow club about a potential move.
Spanish star Ivan De la Pena also had a trial with Celtic. After leaving Lazio, the skilful midfielder spent a week training with the Bhoys before returning home to Spain, according to Sky Sports. Despite Martin O’Neill’s offer for De la Pena to return, the ex-Barcelona man would sign for Espanyol - and see out the rest of his career with the Magico.
In 2004, Brazilian World Cup winner Rivaldo was a free agent after leaving Cruzeiro. Sky Sports reported that Celtic were “on the verge” of completing a deal after the lure of Champions League football helped beat off competition from Bolton Wanderers. However, the move fell through when Rivaldo’s agent was left furious at O’Neill’s decision to offer the ex-Milan midfielder a trial rather than a contract. Carlos Arime told the BBC: “My client has been one of the best players in the world for many years and I don't think he needs to play friendly games in order to prove himself.”
Olivier Giroud made headlines earlier this month when he scored a remarkable ‘scorpion’ goal for Arsenal against Crystal Palace. The Frenchman might have scored that wonder-goal in Celtic colours had a move for the player gone through in 2009. The Daily Record reported that the Hoops were favourites ahead of Middlesbrough to secure a £2.5million deal for the then Ligue 2 striker. Yet interest in Giroud appeared to wane when the winter transfer window opened, as Tony Mowbray brought in Morten Rasmussen and Diomansy Kamara instead.
Amazingly, Celtic had the opportunity to sign a young Didier Drogba on a free transfer back in 2002. Momo Sylla told the Scottish Sun that Drogba approached him about a potential move to Parkhead when he was still playing for French side Guingamp. Sylla advised Drogba not to pursue a move to Celtic as he wouldn’t have seen first-team football ahead of the likes of Chris Sutton, Henrik Larsson and John Hartson. Just two years later, Drogba would complete a £24million move to Chelsea.
Drogba could have been lining up alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Celtic had Martin O’Neill acted quicker to sign the Swedish striker in 2001. Gordon Smith, an agent at the time, told the Sunday Post that he tipped off O’Neill about a possible £2million move for Ibrahimovic. Smith stated that the Celtic boss waited a couple of weeks before following through on a deal for the 19-year-old, only to find out that the Malmo forward had already agreed to join Ajax.