Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Victor Wanyama

One thing Celtic have pioneered in recent seasons is signing players from areas of the globe generally overlooked by global scouts. Ambrose arrived from Nigeria, Izaguirre from Honduras and Wanyama from Kenya are the obvious examples but the club has been strong at signing players that others overlook. They have combined this by buying players from leagues which have - in recent years - been undervalued in the transfer market (most obviously but not exclusively Belgium and Israel)

The brightest example, and their finest player by some margin, is Wanyama. Indeed, only John Park - Celtic's Football Development Manager - is more sought after by clubs around Europe.

For years, it has been easy to mock the achievements of players who do well in Scotland with the line of argument ''well, any idiot can excel against the dross up there''. This hasn't been helped by many players moving from the SPL to the bench in the Premier League or the starting elevens of the Championship. 

The most startling example is Carlos Cuellar. He has carved out a decent career in England but wouldn't be considered as best defenders in the league. It was embarrassing how far ahead of the rest of Scotland football Cuellar was when he played for Rangers.

But back to the young Kenyan. Yes, he has shone against the teams of the Scottish Premier League but he has proved himself against the likes of Spartak Moscow, Benfica and Barcelona. Plenty of famous, and quality, midfielders have been outclassed by the men of Barcelona. Some, most obviously the sumptuous Michael Carrick, have suffered a form of mental disintegration against them. Wanyama more than held his own against the holy trinity of the Nou Camp.

Neil Lennon, the increasingly impressive manager of Celtic, said in October that Wanyama would cost a potential buyer £25m. This may seem unreasonably high but that would represent a return 27 times greater than Celtic paid for him.

It is unlikely that Celtic will receive that amount for a player who would clearly prefer to play in the English Premier League. A fee of over £10m would represent value for the buyer and a decent return for Celtic.

Consider that Ki Sung-Yeung transferred from Celtic to Swansea for £6m. Wanyama is a finer player, more versatile and a few years younger. Moreover, the clubs allegedly sniffing around him are bigger bruisers in the transfer market. Wanyama could well be the player that Manchester United fans have been hankering after and could add both silk and steel to Arsenal.

Wanyama is a player with a huge future. He is that astonishing, and rare mix, of a monstrously powerful player with a gentle touch and a keen eye. He is the fist in a velvet glove. He can play in defence or central midfield whilst also increasingly offering an attacking threat. I'm only surprised more English clubs aren't bursting through Lennon's door.

Scottish fans should feel blessed to have a player as grand as Wanyama playing in the league even if he can cause them pain. Celtic will be hurt by his loss but the likely fee will cushion that blow. They will get a huge fee for him which they will, inevitably, invest it in more players that the rest of the world are ignoring. They are increasingly becoming the Porto of the North.



seamus said...

Agree with most of it apart from the value you put on Victor. He has the potential to be the dominant player in whatever league he chooses to grace, whether it be Man U or Barca. The only midfielder in the EPL that compares to him is Ya Ya Toure.
£20 million minimum next summer if he leaves us.
Séamus Mac

Unknown said...

I haven't seen a Celtic match, even on TV, in 3 years. I haven't seen Wanyama. I thought, with a name like that, he was Japanese. After all, not that long ago, Celtic's best player was named Nakamura.

But then, the first time I heard the name Barack Obama, who is half-Kenyan by ancestry (but NOT by birth!), I thought his name was Japanese as well.

A lot of talk among my fellow Arsenal fans that Arsene Wenger should sign Wanyama. But then, one never knows what Wenger will do, does one?

Liam said...

I keep having to repeat myself in comment boxes on stupid posts like this one - the EPL isn't as good as you all seem to think it is. Yes the top teams have real quality, but the lower half is average. Look at the teams down there - QPR, Villa, Reading, Wigan, Southampton. Do you honestly think these teams are world class? European class? Or in reality just dross?

Cuellar was hardly a standout player in the SPL - where did you get that? And Ki?! He is a good player, I really liked him, but he wasn't a first team regular for Celtic and yet he walks into a team in 8th place in the EPL.

Jelavic? Arteta? Petrov? Fletcher?
All SPL players doing well in the EPL.

Adam (who couldn't get a game at Rangers)? Hutton (rotten)? Maloney? McArthur? McCarthy? Caldwell? Whittaker? Davis? McFadden? Edu? Naismith?

The EPL is currently full of former SPL players, so why is it that the EPL, in its entirety, is considered to be brilliant but conversely the SPL is all terrible?

I get it, the SPL isn't great, it doesn't have the depth, but people can't just keep ignoring the fact that the EPL is declining. The gap between top and bottom is massive and the league is full of mediocre teams.

If Wanyama / Hooper / Forster / Ledley end up in the EPL you will quickly forget where they came from, and express the same unfounded doubts over whatever players you are linked with next.

Anonymous said...

Well said Liam!

Anonymous said...

To see the kid who made his senior national team début against Nigeria as a fifteen year old mature into the player that he is, I for one hope Wanyama makes it to the very top.

Rob Marrs said...


You manage - almost spectacularly - to miss the point. It doesn't matter if the SPL produces good players (as you note, and as I have noted many times on this blog, it does). Rather it is the perception that matters. The perception is - for many in the English game - the SPL is a sub-par league and that it produces sub-par players - that might not be fair, it might not be right but that is the perception.

The whole point was that the perception of ''you can win against dross'' was unfair''.

That said, Cuellar is a good example. He was brilliant in Scotland - the best player in the league. He has been average at best in England. Adam and Hutton are other examples. They've moved to two of the bigger clubs and failed.

Maloney, McArthur, Caldwell, Whittaker, Davis, Edu are - as you point out - aren't playing for the clubs with real quality.

Some players have done well - Arteta, Fletcher, Jelavic, Naismith - but that doesn't disguise the fact that many haven't done well and, moreover, that many more from the SPL end up at Leeds or Cardiff.

Nothing in the post suggested all Premier League teams were world class or European class. Far from it. All leagues are like this (yes, including La Liga). I'd agree entirely that the EPL is declining. I don't see how that is relevant though.

A cruel voice would say that you are right on both counts: the EPL is declining and - what a suprise! - it is also now ''full of former SPL players''. The cruel voice would ask whether the two were related.

I'm not a cruel voice. I rate the SPL. I was, in this case, merely pointing out a perception which clearly exists.


steve said...

My name is Stephen of societyxy.wordpress.com and I am Kenyan. Feels good to get such reviews for one of your own.

Liam said...

Rob - firstly, apologies for use of the words 'stupid posts like this one' as my gripe wasn't specifically with your post which, as you point out, was fairly balanced and about perception.

I have recently read a lot of posts about Hooper and Wanyama from a variety of fans in England, and read one Spurs fan state that taking Hooper on loan as a backup squad player would be the best option - this irks me greatly and, with time on my hands, I am on a one-man crusade to leave posts similar to the one left on your own site.

My reference to the EPL not being world class was, again, mainly because of another blog that came out with the old 'Hooper hasn't come up against world class teams each week like he would in the EPL'. Again, unfair to have a go at you for that one.

I would argue, however, that perception won't change without people who know better being more positive. So, while you didn't add to the speculation that the SPL is all rubbish, it would have been great to see an Englishman with knowledge of the game just confirming that quality is quality, irrespective of where it takes place.

The declining quality of the EPL was mentioned because I feel we are constantly told that it is 'the best league in the world' when it simply isn't. On one hand you have a media giant, Sky, paying an ever increasing fortune for the rights to the league and then we have, unsurprisingly, Sky, telling us it's the best league and we should all buy the subscription to watch it. Meanwhile, almost without exception, the clubs in England are broke, producing losses year on year, and then offering peanuts to Celtic because (perception) we are the poor relation. If Celtic sell Hooper and Wanyama on top of the bumper CL income we will turn a massive profit this year. I'm going off on a tangent again so I will stop myself now!

The current SPL players in the EPL and the decline in quality I would say aren't necessarily related, but I guess it highlights the main problem - paying over the odds for mediocrity.

And, for the record, I disagree strongly about Cuellar being the best player in the SPL!

Ok, best go. All the best.


Ps. Hutton is off to Mallorca so that's one less to worry about.