What started out as a seemingly trivial, media-driven story last month appears to have picked up a legitimate head of steam in recent days, as Celtic are said to have made “significant progress” in their pursuit of Portland Timbers and U.S. national team midfielder Darlington Nagbe.
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According to a report in the Scottish Sun, the Timbers (and MLS) are likely to demand a transfer fee in the neighborhood of $4 million for the 26-year-old University of Akron product (where he also played for current Timbers head coach Caleb Porter). Celtic will reportedly have no qualms about meeting that asking price.
With the January transfer window set to open in 10 days’ time, Nagbe could be officially unveiled by manager Brendan Rodgers as a Celtic player and make his debut as early as Jan. 22, when the Scottish Premiership returns from winter break. Moving to Europe in the upcoming window would, however, almost certainly rule Nagbe out of the USMNT’s January camp for MLS and other out-of-season players abroad.
The greatest point of contention, for American soccer fans, will revolve around the age-old question, “Is this really a step up for the player?” Celtic currently sit 14 points clear at the top of the league (with a game in hand) and have dropped two league points from 17 games this season. No player at Celtic is presently being challenged on a week-to-week basis.
On the other hand, Celtic’s domestic dominance will mean a place in the UEFA Champions League (qualifying rounds) every season. Should they qualify for the group stage, as they did in 2016-17 (the Hoops finished last in Group C, behind Barcelona, Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach), that’s a dozen high…er…ish-level games each season, versus another year in the parity-driven league that is MLS. It’s also entirely possible that Nagbe, who’s played seven of his last nine seasons of soccer under the same coach, would benefit from an all new environment and the direction of a new coach.