Rodgers wants to tap into the African market and what better time to do just that?
Brendan Rodgers may have given away the game. After signing highly-rated Ivorian midfielder Kouassi Eboue, the Northern Irishman has made clear that he sees a strong African contingent driving Celtic onto bigger and better things in the coming years.
“There are also certain markets you can bring players in from to help Celtic and help Scottish football and Africa has always been that,” Rodgers said in quotes reported by the Daily Record.
“It’s always been a market where you find players who are hungry. Kolo Toure is the perfect example.
“Ghana, Mali, Ivory Coast, Senegal. In western Africa, they have big talent.”
If only there was some major tournament that brought all these starlets together. For now, the African Cup of Nations will do. But who could earn Rodgers’ admiration in the coming weeks and kick-start his search for the very best the continent has to offer?
Africa is not exactly renowned for its production of top class goalkeepers but, at least in Cameroon, significant strides are being made in the shot-stopping department. 21-year-old Sevilla reserve Ondoa will likely start between the sticks for the brilliantly named Indomitable Lions after fellow youngster and Ajax number one Andre Onana pulled out.
Therefore, he has the ideal opportunity to showcase his superb reflexes to the watching world and, with Logan Bailly expected to depart and Dorus De Vries struggling, Celtic are surely in the market for a long-term challenge for Craig Gordon.
In another era, Kolo Toure would be gracing the African Cup of Nations with his superb positioning and tactical nous but there’s no reason why the Rennes starlet can’t usurp Celtic’s ageing centre-back and evolve into the continent’s next best.
At the age of 21, the Algerian is already one of the standout defenders in Ligue 1 while his ability to flit between defensive midfield and left-back roles means he has rapidly become invaluable to one of France’s current overachievers.
And, with Toure’s future beyond the season unknown, Bensebaini could step into centre-back the void at Celtic Park. Or fill in on the flanks. Or maybe even midfield.
With Patrick Roberts due back at Manchester City in the summer after serving his apprenticeship at Celtic Park, Brendan Rodgers will be one winger short going into next season. And, if Mali speedster Nicolas Pepe catches his eye, he’ll have to act fast.
According to L’Equipe, Lyon, Lille, Newcastle United, Juventus, Monaco and Roma have all expressed an interest in the 21-year-old whose pace, direct dribbling and goalscoring touch have stood out in an otherwise average Angers side.
Young, raw and blessed with substantial resale value; Pepe is Celtic’s type of signing.