Celtic have wasted no time over the World Cup break fine-tuning their squad ahead of 2023 with the Hoops aiming to continue a trend from earlier this year at Parkhead.
Indeed, the Hoops had a fine winter window last time out, with the likes of Daizen Maeda, Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley all being signed by Ange Postecoglou.
The trio have become key cogs in his squad and a year on, the Australian is looking to strengthen even further.
The 57-year-old coach has already sealed a deal to bring Yuki Kobayashi in at the start of 2023, but there is another move in the pipeline.
That just so happens to be another defender; Alistair Johnston.
The Canadian is currently in Qatar with his country for the World Cup and has already admitted that being linked with the Hoops is an “honour.”
While not explicitly suggesting he’d end up in Scotland next year, a move looks all but confirmed with a swoop “nearing completion” according to reporter Manuel Veth.
All it will take is for the final paperwork to be completed and then it looks as though he will be announced at Parkhead.
The transfer has rather come out of nowhere but it should be an exciting one with the right-back already impressing in Qatar over the last week.
Johnston played in Canada’s 1-0 defeat to Belgium with the aforementioned Veth claiming that he is “starring” already.
Having turned in a “blood and thunder performance” in the words of journalist Chris Smith, it was indicative of the type of player Celtic will be getting.
He is aggressive, loves a tackle and has a no-nonsense approach to the game.
In the words of the player himself, Johnston “loves” laying people out with that a nod to his days as an ice hockey player.
“Nothing gets me more excited [than] if I get clattered into by an opponent or I clatter into him and it’s clean and the guy starts pushing me back,” the 24-year-old once said.
Clearly a competent defender, he also impresses going forward with the Vancouver-born full-back, who can also play in the middle of the backline, ranking in some of the best percentiles around.
When compared to defenders in the world’s next eight best leagues outside of the big five, FB Ref ranks him in the best 1% for touches in the attacking third and expected assisted goals per 90 minutes.
Furthermore, he is also in the top 1% for key passes and passes into the penalty area, as well as the best 1% for shot-creating actions.
With that in mind, he looks like the perfect full-back. Indeed, his aggressive defensive style marries well with his relentless intent to get forward and join in with attacks.
As a result, he could be the ideal replacement for another World Cup defender; Josip Juranovic.
The Croatian only joined Celtic just over a year ago in the summer of 2021 but looks set to depart soon with the “outstanding” full-back, as dubbed by John Hartson, a player that the Bhoys are considering selling.
Therefore, the addition of Johnston may well mean that Postecoglou’s mind has already been made up when it comes to Juranovic.
He has been a valuable asset since arriving but has been limited significantly when it comes to playing time of late with the 27-year-old featuring just twice in the Premiership since September.
Evidently an expendable asset, binning Juranovic in January while bringing in Johnston certainly seems like a smart move.