Celtic's 10 worst transfers of all time

Martin Macdonald
Martin Macdonald
  • 25 Feb 2024 13:48 GMT
  • 8 min read
Boerrigter, Duffy and the 10 worst Celtic signings of the last 25 years
© ProShots

Scottish giants Celtic are one of the most successful clubs in Europe, having won the European Cup in 1967 and accumulated 53 Scottish top-flight championships, 41 Scottish Cup titles, and 21 League Cups.

In the 2020/21 campaign they were on course for an unprecedented 10th league title in a row in Scotland – a feat never achieved before.

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Celtic dominated Scotland for nine years, but fell at the last hurdle to claim ‘The 10’ as Steven Gerrard guided Rangers to the title in emphatic fashion.

READ MORE: Liverpool’s 10 worst transfers of all time

Throughout the ups and downs of the last quarter century, the club has naturally made wonderful signings like Henrik Larsson, Lubomir Moravcik, and Shunsuke Nakamura.

However, there have been a worrying amount of flop transfers, too.

So, let’s see who Celtic have signed who either performed poorly or whose price simply did not match their abilities.

READ MORE: Man Utd's 10 WORST transfers of all time

For the purposes of this list, we’ll focus on the last 25 years when Celtic started to splash the cash.

Mohamed Bangura – £2.2m from AIK, 2011

When Celtic signed striker Mo Bangura from AIK, his agent said: “Bangura is a very talented, skilful player and I think he will be the next Henry Larsson at Celtic.

“The Celtic fans will like him very much. I see him moving to the English Premier League or the other big leagues in Europe in the not too distance future.”

He was not the next Henrik Larsson, nor did he go on to play in any ‘big league’ in Europe.

The Sierra Leone international was fairly hopeless in his time with the Hoops and failed to score a single league goal during his period with the club.

Things looked to be at the point of no return for him when he actually played against Celtic in Europe while on loan at Elfsborg, only to be roundly booed by the Celtic Park faithful each time he touched the ball.

He even tried to get someone sent off by going down clutching his face after minimal contact. He won’t be remembered fondly in the East End of Glasgow.

Shane Duffy – On loan from Brighton, 2020

Brighton defender Shane Duffy, a Celtic fan, was brought in during the summer of 2020 to try and add steel to the defence, having helped the Seagulls get into the Premier League with his no-nonsense approach at the back before losing his place in the team under Graham Potter.

It was a high-profile deal as Celtic had managed to acquire a Premier League-level defender in order to aid their pursuit of 10-in-a-row. It was an expensive one, too, as they would allegedly be paying his full £40k per week wages.

The move was an unmitigated disaster.

Boerrigter, Duffy and the 10 worst Celtic signings of the last 25 years
© ProShots

Duffy’s performances for Celtic weren't just underwhelming but impactfully bad on their season as his campaign was littered with mistakes.

The big Irishman became bereft of all confidence, so much so that nearly every action he took on the pitch had a level of calamity about it.

He simply forgot how to defend, as displayed by his constant rushing out from the back to concede fouls, his atrocious working of the offside trap or even just allowing opponents to run rings around him inside the box.

Thomas Gravesen – £2m from Real Madrid, 2006

This is certainly one of the highest profile transfers on the list as Celtic were signing a Real Madrid midfielder when they agreed a deal to bring Denmark international Thomas Gravesen to Celtic Park.

Even before Gravesen had signed for the Hoops, there was uncertainty surrounding his medical, though he eventually did sign on the dotted line.

Gravesen was by no means terrible while in Glasgow and even had some great moments, including two goals scored against Rangers and a hat-trick against St Mirren.

His reputation as a hot head never really went away, though, while his tactical prowess never impressed either as he could be a headless chicken in midfield, scurrying into tackles.

After signing him for £2m, Celtic allegedly had to shell out £1m to terminate his contract after manager Gordon Strachan publicly accused him of not working hard enough earn back a place in the starting XI.

Du Wei – On loan from Shanghai Shenua, 2005

It takes a monumentally bad performance to make this list having featured just one time for Celtic. Du Wei not only played just one match for Celtic, but one half.

When Du Wei signed for Celtic on a short-term deal from Shanghai Shenhua he had a decent reputation as he had played at the 2002 World Cup with China and won the 2001 Asian Young Player of the Year Award.

Boerrigter, Duffy and the 10 worst Celtic signings of the last 25 years
© ProShots

He would make his debut in an infamous Scottish Cup tie against Clyde which Celtic would go on to lose 2-1.

In that game, which also saw the debut of Roy Keane, he played a part in a lost goal, gave away a penalty and was generally run ragged by the forwards of the lower-league side before being substituted at half-time.

He would play only 45 minutes of football with the club before returning to China.

Vasilis Barkas – £5m from AEK Athens, 2020

When Fraser Forster made it clear he would not be returning to Celtic either on loan again or on a permanent basis, the Hoops went on the hunt for a new goalkeeper and identified Vasilias Barkas as the man to come in and be their new No.1.

Barkas had actually played against Celtic in the qualifiers for the Champions League previously and was decent in those fixtures, even if the fee of £5m did seem slightly pricey.

He was always going to be unfairly compared to Forster, and his presence in between the sticks didn’t help things as he lacked the command of the big Englishman, as well as the confidence to organise things at the back.

Barkas has been in front of a terrible defence, too, but by the time he limply allowed a Conor Goldson header to bounce past him into the corner against Rangers in a crucial derby, many Celtic fans had already made their mind up that he wasn’t good enough.

Albian Ajeti – £5m from West Ham, 2020

With Leigh Griffiths in and out of the team heading into the 2020/21 season, Celtic recognised the need for a new centre-forward to act as a partner for or competitor with lead striker Odsonne Edouard.

Ajeti had a burgeoning reputation from his time at Basel and signed for West Ham for £8m in 2019. He barely played for the Hammers before subsequently moving to Scotland for a fee of £5m.

Boerrigter, Duffy and the 10 worst Celtic signings of the last 25 years
© ProShots

Things started off well for the Austrian striker as he came off the bench to score the winner against Dundee United on his debut, but only a handful more would come thereafter as he would eventually lose his place in the team and sometimes even the matchday squad.

Accusations over his fitness and commitment never really went away.

Derk Boerrigter – £3m from Ajax, 2013

Not only was Derk Boerrigter involved in the famed youth set-up at Ajax, but the Amsterdam side actually brought him back to the club later in his career after he left for spells at FC Zwolle and RKC Waalwijk.

The Dutchman had a decent record at Ajax, helping them to the Eredivisie title in consecutive seasons between 2011 and 2013, and scoring 16 goals in the league over that period.

Due to the fact he was signing from a huge club in Ajax, Boerrigter arrived to Celtic Park to much fanfare.

The problem was, he was constantly – and we mean constantly – injured and never gained enough momentum to put together a good run of form.

During the last year of his contract in 2015/16 he didn’t make a single appearance for the Bhoys before being released.

In three years at Celtic, he made just 16 league appearances and scored only once.

Efrain Juarez – £2m from Pumas, 2010

Celtic decided to splash around £2m on Efrain Juarez after he impressed in the 2010 World Cup with Mexico. He would subsequently become the first Mexican to play in what was then the Scottish Premier League.

One issue Juarez had was that he was unable to lock down a definitive position as he had previously played at right-back with Mexico only to be moved into central midfield.

Boerrigter, Duffy and the 10 worst Celtic signings of the last 25 years
© ProShots

He struggled to adapt to the game in Europe and Celtic attempted to loan him to Brescia just six months after his arrival, only for the deal to fall through.

Juarez would eventually join Real Zaragoza on loan but after failing to impress there, too, he would eventually return to North America with Club America.

The top flight in Scotland is certainly not the highest of levels, but Juarez still proved to be out of his depth following his move from Mexico.

Eboue Kouassi – £3m from Krasnodar, 2017

Eboue Kouassi arrived for a not-to-be-sniffed-at fee of £3m in the winter of 2017 from Krasnodar.

It would naturally have taken the Ivorian a good amount of time to adapt to Scottish football following the move from Russia, but the issue was he failed to truly adapt, despite being there for two-and-a-half years.

In that period, he started just 22 games in all competitions before being sold to Genk following a loan period with the Belgian side.

He was deployed in the deep-lying pivot of midfield for Celtic but his awareness and positional ability left a lot to be desired, meaning the club were more than happy to recoup around £1.3m back when he left for Genk.

Rafael Scheidt – £5m from Gremio, 1999

Possibly the ‘Scheidtest’ of all Celtic’s ‘Scheidt’ transfers was the transfer of Brazilian defender Rafael Scheidt from Gremio in 1999 – for £5m, no less.

Scheidt had, remarkably, won three caps with Brazil before making the move to Celtic under legendary player Kenny Dalglish, but this was at the time the national team were being accused of handing out caps to anyone in friendlies so Brazilian clubs could bump up asking prices to European sides.

Boerrigter, Duffy and the 10 worst Celtic signings of the last 25 years
© ProShots

That strategy worked immensely as Scheidt would cost Celtic a cool £1m per appearance for the club before they eventually paid him off in 2002 after a loan spell with Corinthians.

The player would later admit that subsequent Celtic manager Martin O’Neil would tell him: “I like footballers who are not like you. I like footballers who play well.”

Scheidt in name, Scheidt in talent.

Honourable mentions

Carlton Cole, Colin Kazim Richards, Juninho, Amido Balde, Morten Rasmussen, Willo Flood, Magnus Hedman, Freddie Ljungberg, Jeremie Aliadiere, Ian Wright, Marvin Compper, Mubarak Wakaso, Daryl Murphy, Patryk Klimala, Olivier Kapo, Mo Camara, Zheng Zhi, Henri Camara.

Read more about: Premiership, Celtic

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