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Does Ryan Christie Have A Future At Celtic?

Ryan Christie

In the loan market, Celtic has found differing results. Nadir Ciftci struggled in the English lower leagues with Plymouth and is trying again back in Scotland with Motherwell; promising youngster Kundai Benyu can’t get a game for Oldham Athletic. The only true success story they’ve had this season is Ryan Christie, who has been mightily impressive on loan with rivals Aberdeen. This was not a new territory for the player, given he spent time on loan at the same club last season in a productive spell. He notched 6 goals in just 13 league games in the second half of the campaign. His form helped Aberdeen to a second-place finish in the Scottish Premiership and a Scottish Cup final against his, of course, Celtic.

Manager Derek McInnes was desperate to secure the return of the midfielder for this season and Brendan Rodgers – perhaps surprisingly – granted his wish, and Christie has continued in fine style for the Dons. His goals return may be down (just 3 in the league so far) but whenever he’s played, which is often, Christie has made Aberdeen tick in attack and has been their main creative outlet. In battles against Celtic, they’ve sorely missed his ability, lacking that spark to change a game in one team’s favour. Aberdeen’s other options in midfield – players like Kenny McClean and Gary Mackay-Steven – have their positives but don’t possess Christie’s talent for that killer pass, his incisive play through an opposition’s defence. With McClean also due to depart the club for Norwich City next season, it’s little wonder that McInnes has talked about the possibility of signing Christie permanently from Celtic (Daily Record).

Rodgers, however, stated in the media last week that Christie will definitely remain a Celtic player next season. (Thescottishsun) Christie turned 23 last month and is at the age where he needs to find the best club to settle down at and play his best football. His ability is unquestioned but the overload of midfielders at Celtic could be problematic. Tom Rogic, Callum McGregor, Charly Musonda, and Stuart Armstrong are all potential rivals for his favoured position, attacking midfield. It’s something that Rodgers does need to address, this imbalance in his squad, for the defence is far more in need of reinforcement. The only way one could see Christie being allowed to join Aberdeen, then, is if McInnes can afford a decent transfer fee to secure his services.

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This is unlikely, for Aberdeen will most likely be focusing their expenditure on their new stadium, and closer attention to his competitors in midfield can offer Christie hope. Stuart Armstrong has appeared disillusioned with life in Glasgow this season and has been a pale imitation of the player from last season. Charly Musonda is very raw and it remains to be seen if he has the physicality required for Scottish football. Callum McGregor has filled the position consistently this campaign and has had an admirable season, but many have noted the dearth of creativity when he does occupy that attacking midfield space; the Scottish international possesses a goal threat and keeps possession well, but he doesn’t have that unpredictability or creativity of someone like Christie or Rogic. The latter’s exquisite left foot shot to equalise against Rangers last weekend was evidence of this but the rangy Australian is alarmingly injury-prone.

Rogic is the player most similar to Christie at the club, but it may play into Christie’s favour that he is fitter, more physically capable and can thus offer Rodgers more consistency. They both have an excellent eye for a pass, are graceful in possession of the ball, but Christie should be able to play far more minutes on the pitch. Rodger’s insistence about his place in his squad for next season will fill Christie with confidence, and a full season of first-team football with Aberdeen will ready him for a tough pre-season this summer.

Freelance writer currently based in New Zealand.