Saturday, February 4, 2023

Celtic should rue not signing Hincapie

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Since Celtic hired Ange Postecoglou as their manager last summer, a great deal of work has gone into revitalising the team at Parkhead.

Many of the Australian’s new signings have come up trumps, a fact rubberstamped by their rampant title win in 2021/22.

Faces like Kyogo Furuhashi, Jota and Cameron Carter-Vickers has been superb since penning on the dotted line, with the latter two, in particular, shining so much that they were brought back permanently following their respective loan moves.

However, it hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows from a recruitment perspective, with Postecoglou now surely ruing his inability to bring a specific centre-back to Paradise last summer.

That happens to be Piero Hincapie, with the Ecuadorian linked with a move to Glasgow last summer.

He was just 19 years of age at the time but had the likes of Bayern Munich, Newcastle, Atletico Madrid and PSG all after him.

Hincapie would later join Bayer Leverkusen but after some sublime displays, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Europe’s elite come calling again.

Now 20, the defender is still incredibly young but his performances have seen his transfer value rise to an astronomical £34.5m.

Celtic’s chance to sign the youngster has been and gone but had they landed him, they may well be staring at a juicy payday.

Hincapie’s name has come into the limelight again courtesy of his dominating performance against the Netherlands on Friday evening at the World Cup.

Playing as the left centre-back in a three-man defence, he was exceptional. Indeed, his ability to play on that side of the backline is a rare commodity, with his left-footedness only adding an extra few million onto his already eye-watering price tag.

In order to balance play, many a manager now seeks a left-footed centre-back with that fact ringing true to Postecoglou who has just acquired Yuki Kobayashi for a similar role.

The Japanese may well be a success in Parkhead but there will surely be an element of what if when it comes to Hincapie.

He was hailed in a number of circles following a display that saw him make a mighty four tackles, five clearances and win two aerial duels.

Even if the game did end in a 1-1 draw, the young Leverkusen defender was a pillar of solidity as he helped to largely stifle a country whose starting XI is valued at €325m (£280m) via Transfermarkt.

One reporter, Victor Hernandez Molina, labelled him “colossal” while Rodrigo Coutinho noted that he was going to “build a very cool career in the Ecuadorian national team” after a “competitive” and “firm” display at the back versus the Netherlands.

Jorge Gomez, meanwhile, commented that he is “the best player” in his team, noting that his influence on the game even in an attacking capacity was so great that Virgil van Dijk was charged with marking him at set plays.

Clearly a vital asset for his nation, there will be some at Celtic who no doubt look back upon the summer window of 2021 wondering what could have been.

It feels like Hincapie is truly destined to become an elite defender.

Numisteamone

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