Just last week, the Daily Record reported that Celtic were likely to use the World Cup break as an opportunity to scout potential replacements for the much-admired Josip Juranovic. And, as Canada ran rings around a Belgian side with more OAP’s than a bingo hall on a Monday afternoon, the Hoops might just have found him.
According to The Sun, Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou is a fan of talented right-back Alistair Johnston, who joined MLS outfit CF Montreal from Nashville SC for around £800,000 last year.
Transfermarkt, meanwhile, believe that things are moving at a rate of knots. Celtic, they say, are now in advanced talks with Montreal, the £5 million-rated Johnston now increasingly likely to become the club’s second January signing after Japan international Yuki Kobayashi joined on a five-year deal this week.
Now, should Juranovic depart in the New Year – the likes of Manchester United and Atletico Madrid have expressed an interest, while the Record say that Celtic are already bracing themselves for offers – that would leave big shoes to fill.
As Canada outplayed an ageing and wizened Belgium off the park on Wednesday night, however, 24-year-old Johnston showed that he is not the sort of character to be overawed by the big occasion.
Celtic in talks to sign Montreal CF’s Canada international Alistair Johnston
The Vancouver-born full-back was a constant menace, particularly in the first half. He forced Thibaut Courtois into a save with a fierce volley from inside the penalty area, while firing a number of wicked deliveries into the box.
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Johnston, during his debut season with Montreal, mustered four goals and four assists in 33 MLS games. A statistic which highlights his potency in the final third, Johnston’s numbers broadly similar to those of Juranovic himself.
“Depending on the opposition, sometimes he can play as a centre-back. (And) sometimes he can play as a wing-back,” explains Montreal coach Wilfried Nancy; highlighting Johnston’s ability to thrive in a variety of roles.
“We like to change the way we play week by week. He is so clever that he is able to understand all the nuances in the game.
“For me, after that, it was a no-brainer that he can (also) play as a wing-back. What I like about him is that he’s able to understand quickly.”
When you think of all the attributes Juranovic brings to Celtic – the technical ability, the versatility, the creativity in the final third and the aggression defensively – then Johnston feels like a more-than fitting successor.
In other news, Alex Grimaldo tipped for Barcelona amid Nottingham Forest and Newcastle interest