ONE of the longest running transfer sagas of the transfer window is almost at its conclusion as Arsenal look set to sign Kieran Tierney from Celtic.
Having first bid £18m a month ago, then £25m in installments, the Gunners finally had a bid accepted, believed to be £25m up front, for the Celtic left back less than 24 hours before the English Transfer Window slams shut.
Tierney now travels to London with the expectation that he completes the move to one of England’s biggest clubs, assuming that he passes a medical. He will become Scotland’s most expensive player, surpassing Ollie McBurnie, who recently joined Sheffield United for a staggering £18m.
Naturally, Celtic fans are up in arms at the prospect of losing their prized asset. He is one of their own, he came through the youth ranks at Parkhead, sat with the fans when he wasn’t playing and took selfies with them when they won a trophy – which has been quite a lot recently. So the thought of him jumping ship will be tying knots in their stomachs, questioning why any true Celtic fan would leave their great club.
But Kieran Tierney has to take emotion out of the picture and think about what’s best for his career, and moving to one of the top six clubs in England is a no brainer.
It can be argued that Arsenal are no longer the force they once were. They haven’t won the League since the Invincible season of 2003/04, they have only finished second once since 2005, and haven’t qualified for the Champions League for three years. Even three FA Cups in four seasons from 2014 to 2017 isn’t enough to appease the Gunners fans, who got fed up of Arsene Wengers latter years where the club were content with fourth placed finishes.
However, they are still a massive club that only missed out on Champions League football by one point and reached the Europa League Final in Unai Emery’s first season, before being swept aside by Chelsea. With Emery shelling out a record £72m on winger Nicolas Pepe, Arsenal have made a statement of intent that they are ready to mount a proper challenge to the top four and push closer to Manchester City and Liverpool this season, though it will be a tough ask.
For Tierney, it’s an opportunity to test himself week in week out against some of the best players on the planet. Having seen the remarkable progress of International team mate and fellow left back Andy Robertson, who has a Champions League Winners medal with Liverpool, Tierney will have looked on with a degree of envy and fancy a crack at England’s top flight to progress his game.
At 22, Tierney is at the right age to make the next step in his career after breaking into Celtic’s first team at just 17. He’s achieved everything that he can at his boyhood team with the treble treble and playing in two Champions League campaigns. Whilst he’s not going to knock on Neil Lennon’s door to beg for a move, he’ll know deep down that if he wants to match or surpass Robertson’s level then he has to take the next step.
He is a good fit for Arsenal, who like to play attacking football. His strength is bombing forward and setting up chances, which will suit the style of play at The Emirates Stadium. Whilst his attacking nature is obvious, Tierney is also a competent defender who can get back into position quickly, and that’s something the Gunners have lacked for a long time, probably going back to Ashley Cole. Their current choices of Kolasinic and Monreal have not been convincing so the arrival of Tierney will please the Arsenal fans.
Of course, leaving Celtic is going to be a wrench for the young left back, and he will no doubt feel some guilt at leaving at a time where the possibility of winning ten titles in a row is within their grasp. However, whether us fans like it or not, football is a job and players have to view their short careers like we do and most of us, if we look at things objectively, would do the same thing in his position. It’s the chance, not to go to a bigger club as there isn’t much difference in stature between the two, but to go to a bigger level and the chance to advance his game.
From an International perspective, Kieran Tierney moving onto one of England’s top six sides is a boost for the Scotland side. We need more players making it to the elite level, playing for the top sides in European Football, testing themselves against the best players in world football, to enhance the quality of the national team. It’s just our luck that Tierney plays in the same position as Robertson, but then he is adaptable at slotting in at right back or even centre back.
As for Celtic, the blow of losing Tierney is compensated by the record fee for a player, that adds to the large sums of money accrued from Champions League money and the sale of other top players such as Virgil Van Dijk and Moussa Dembele over the last four years. They can go out and get another left back in as competition for new recruit Boli Bolingoli, who had a difficult night in their draw against Cluj in Champions League Qualifying last night. Replacing him will be a hard task but the funds are there and will have to move quickly to ensure they have a new left back in as, if Bolingoli gets injured, there aren’t many options to slot in, with winger Johnny Hayes the only real backup.
Kieran Tierney lived the dream at Celtic, breaking into the side as a teenager, winning trophies, being idolised by the fans and even captaining the club at times. Nothing ever phased him and his pride of being a Celtic player was there for all to see.
However, this is the time for him to fulfill a new dream to go test himself at a higher level. Arsenal and The Emirates Stadium is the ideal platform for that next step.