USA international Darlington Nagbe appeared close to signing for Celtic in January – now they may wish they had got the deal over the line.
Celtic even went to the trouble of making MLS star and USA international Darlington Nagbe the special guest at their Champions League clash with Barcelona earlier in the season.
Brendan Rodgers’ desire to sign Portland Timers’ talisman could hardly have been less subtle.
Yet, after weeks of speculation, Nagbe’s long-awaited move to Europe fell through, as reported by the Daily Record, with their final offer well short of Timbers’ valuation.
The concurrent signing of Eboue Kouassi, and the emergence of Callum McGregor, softened the blow somewhat but you still get the feeling that Celtic should have accepted defeat and paid Nagbe’s transfer fee in full.
After all, his manager at the 2015 MLS Cup winners, Caleb Porter, told FourFourTwo that the 26-year-old could become one of the greatest ‘soccer’ players ever produced in the United States. This is a view avid fans of the American league will no doubt reciprocate.
And the fact that Nagbe has roared back to form after a difficult 2016 doesn’t make Celtic’s near miss any easier to swallow.
The dynamic midfielder has scored just once and produced two assists in six games for the Oregon-based outfit this season but his performances have offered a timely reminder as to why he is arguably the most gifted US star since Landon Donovan.
Compared to his 2016 performances, in which he scored just once in 27 league games, his displays this calendar year appear even more impressive. Porter has handed Nagbe more of a free role in recent weeks, deploying him on the left of midfield to allow him to cut inside onto his right and driving through the heart of opposition backlines and link with Timbers’ lone frontman.
As such, he looks more aggressive, more direct than ever before. Almost all of Timbers’ most dangerous attacks originate through Nagbe on the left.
However, after enduring something of a lull throughout the entirety of last season, it seems that Nagbe needs to depart the MLS in order to fulfil his vast potential.
As such, the thought of Nagbe pulling on the green and white in the near future is not too outlandish.