As if a 19 point lead wasn't enough, Celtic have trolled Rangers fans further by actually getting out their chequebook this month to sign Kouassi Eboue for £2.5million. I'd be lying if I claimed I knew much about the 19 year old Ivorian; transfermarkt.co.uk describes him as a defensive midfielder. If he does indeed have the potential that Brendan Rodgers has claimed - "I look at (him) with the same feeling I had as when I saw a young Coutinho and a young Sterling" - then presumably he'll be in the team soon enough...in which case another of Celtic's established midfielders is going to see less game time. Scott Brown? Stuart Armstrong? We'll see.
My beef with the signing is not that; it's that its not clear at all how Eboue circumvents work permit rules. The criteria for a non-EU player is as follows:
- must have played for their country in at least 75% of its competitive matches in the last two years when fit
- their country must be 70th or higher in the FIFA rankings
Well, the Ivory Coast are ranked 34th at the time of writing. However, Eboue has a grand total of zero caps. He has had two previous callups to the Elephants, but is yet to play for them. So on we go to the next step, where according to SFA rules, "where an application does not meet the published criteria, a club may request a panel to consider the player's skills and experience".
The panel takes the following factors into account. I quote word for word from the SFA's guidance:
- 'to consider whether the player is of the highest calibre'
- 'to consider whether the player is able to contribute significantly to the development of the game at the top level in Scotland'
To recap, Eboue is an uncapped 19 year old who, so far this season, has started less than half the league games of his Russian Premier League side Krasnodar. Now, it might be rather stringent for me to assume that 'highest calibre' applies to the Messis and Ronaldos of this world, but to stretch the definition this far appears to be pushing one's luck.
As for contributing 'significantly to the development of the game at the top level in Scotland', what to make of that? From Celtic's own selfish point of view, he might improve their squad and ultimately strengthen their starting lineup. Moreover, their long-term aim is to sell him for megabucks, which would certainly contribute significantly to their bank balance. However, if Eboue is a success, he will reduce the potential playing time of other Celtic players including some Scottish ones. Maybe Armstrong and Brown are untouchable in the short-term, but what about guys like Callum McGregor and Liam Henderson?
So I strongly dispute that Eboue can be described as 'of the highest calibre'. And I certainly dispute that he will contribute significantly to anything other than Celtic's ongoing hegemony. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't find any other non-EU signing in Scotland that is comparable. Victor Wanyama was my first reference point, but whilst Kenya's FIFA ranking was between 65 and 100 before he joined Celtic, he had at least hit that 75% target and so his signing is much easier to justify.
But of course it isn't me who makes the decision. This panel has sat, and apparently has recommended to the SFA that Celtic be allowed to register Eboue. Apparently he is of 'the highest calibre', and apparently he will 'contribute significantly to the development of the game at the top level in Scotland'.
Clearly they know more than I do about football. Because the alternative explanation is that the panel might not have been entirely impartial in their judgement. But the idea of an SFA process such as this being anything other than transparent and squeaky clean is nothing short of preposterous, obviously.
On the other hand, say Aberdeen had found a 19 year old uncapped non-EU player and wanted to sign him. I can't help feeling that wouldn't be looked upon favourably.
Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.