THE imminent departure of Carl Starfelt for Celta Vigo in Spain will require Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers to re-enter the transfer market and bring in another centre half in the coming days.

Maik Nawrocki, the Polish defender who moved to Parkhead in a £4.3m switch from Legia Warsaw last month, performed well in his new club’s convincing 4-2 cinch Premiership win over Ross County on Saturday.

And Cameron Carter-Vickers, who had been sidelined since undergoing knee surgery back in May, is also available for selection by the Scottish champions once again after making his comeback in the James Forrest testimonial match last week.   

Yet, Rodgers is, with only Carter-Vickers, Yuki Kobayashi, Nawrocki and Stephen Welsh in his squad, short of cover in the specialist position and is, with a punishing schedule of domestic and European fixtures coming up in the months ahead, keen to increase his options.

READ MOREWhy replacing Carl Starfelt at Celtic may be trickier than you think

Reports in Sweden have revealed that Gustaf Lagerbielke of Elfsborg is being lined up as a potential £3m replacement for his compatriot.

The prospect of a new arrival coming in is always exciting for supporters and the treble winners’ fans are already interested to see what summer recruits Odin Thiago Holm, Yang Hyn-jun, Kwon Hyeck-kyu, Nawrocki and, once he has recovered from injury, Marco Tilio have to offer.

John Hartson is as well. The former Celtic striker feels that his old club, who face a difficult trip to Pittodrie to play Aberdeen on Sunday, have conducted some good business in recent weeks and is as eager as any supporter to watch the quintet in action.

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However, the man who won six major trophies during his five years as a player in this country reckons that retaining the nucleus of the side which lifted every domestic honour last term has been every bit as important as adding to the squad.

He strongly suspected that Ange Postecoglou would attempt to lure a few of his former players to north London when he joined Spurs back in May - and feared it would have detrimental impact on his old club’s attempts to make a positive start to the 2023/24 campaign if he succeeded in doing so. 

But he thinks Rodgers can, having held on to Carter-Vickers, Alistair Johnston, Callum McGregor, Reo Hatate, Daizen Maeda, Liel Abada, Matt O’Riley, David Turnbull and Kyogo Furuhashi, build on the success which his predecessor enjoyed, win around those who were unhappy when he was brought back in and land more silverware. 

He believes that getting leading scorer Furuhashi, wide man Maeda and captain and central midfielder McGregor to agree to sign contract extensions was just as important as just making any multi-million pound marquee acquisition.

The spine of the side which won the League Cup, Premiership and Scottish Cup last term – Joe Hart, Greg Taylor, Carter-Vickers, McGregor, Maeda, Abada and Furuhashi – all started against County and Hatate and Forrest came on. 

READ MORETurnbull can become pivotal figure under Rodgers at Celtic

“I am sure that one of the first things that Brendan did after he came in was have a look at Callum, Kyogo and Reo,” he said. “They are three stars for Celtic, three very big and important players. I have no doubt he didn’t want to lose them. He has done well to secure them on long-term deals.

“Brendan will have his view on how he wants to play. I think he will tinker with Ange’s system slightly. That is his imperative. He is the manager, he is the boss, the buck will stop with him if the team don’t get results. He will have his own system.

“But I think those three players would fit in to any side and any manager’s thinking. I am sure he will have had private conversations with each of them soon after he joined and told them that he wanted to keep them at the football club because of the success they have had.”

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Hartson added: “I am sure Ange that will have had his eye on one or two players at Celtic because of the success that he had there with the boys he brought to the club. Of course, the fans didn’t want that to happen and it hasn't.

“They wanted to see the club fend off any interest because they love the team and the players they have. Jota has obviously left for Saudi Arabia and made the club a substantial profit out of that transfer and now Starfelt is set to go as well. But every other player has been retained.

“There are still six or seven big players there. I think those type of players, your Carter-Vickers, your McGregors, your Kyogos, your Hatates, your Abadas, your Johnstons, are the kind you want to keep and work around in order to maintain your success.”

READ MOREO'Riley on Starfelt transfer and his Celtic orders to be 'selfish'

Rangers have, for the first time in years, outspent their city rivals during the close season and lavished nearly £15m on no fewer than nine new players.

The 1-0 defeat they slumped to against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Saturday was desperately disappointing – but Cyriel Dessers (£4.5m), Danilo (£5.5m) and Sam Lammers (£3.5m) should make the Ibrox outfit far more formidable opponents in the 2023/24 season.

Hartson, who lifted the Scottish title on three occasions during his time at Parkhead, is quietly confident that Celtic can maintain their domestic dominance even though they have only made five new additions to date because of the quality and strength and depth which was already there.  

“Brendan didn’t need to do anything radical,” he said. “He had already got good players at his disposal, he had got a winning team who had just won a treble. He is coming in at a brilliant moment for Celtic. They are riding the crest of the wave.

“Yes, they have lost the manager who delivered the treble, but that is something that happens all the time in football. Managers leave, players leave. They have to keep going and I am sure they will. They have to stay above Rangers, they have to be the top club up here. Domestic success is very important.

“There will be pressure from over the road because Michael Beale has has brought in a lot of new players and built a team which he is hopeing can win trophies for Rangers. But I am looking forward to it, it should be really exciting.

“It is a new era for Brendan. But he has been here before, he knows the club, he has been over the course before. He is the best man to come in, the best appointment they could have made. I’m hoping he’ll do very well. I am sure he will have his eye on a few more players, but he has enough there already.”

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