CELTIC legend Packie Bonner believes the club’s board have made the best of a bad situation amid criticism of their reluctance to invest heavily in their squad.
The Bhoys have developed a knack for selling their most valuable asset every summer with Virgil van Dijk the latest in a long line of high profile annual departures, yet little is being pumped back into the team.
The club generated around a £10.5million profit from the sale of van Dijk after signing the defender for just £2.6m two years ago, with buyers Southampton expected to pay £13m in total for his services.
It’s Celtic’s third big-money sale to the Premier League side in as many summers after Fraser Forster (£8m profit) and Victor Wanyama (£11.6m profit), and former goalkeeper Bonner accepts the business model is necessary for the time being at least.
“To be honest, all the clubs in Scotland are now selling clubs,” he told The Irish Post. “At one point they were £34million in debt but I think they’ve reduced that down – that debt wasn’t sustainable for a club like Celtic.
“They’re in a good position now, they don’t want to get back into that situation. They’re unfortunate because they don’t have the media money that’s available in England. But they’ve done well, to a point, in the signings that they’ve made and sold on. Each year they’re getting good fees.
“Virgil van Dijk has just gone for at least £11m, Fraser Forster went the year before, Gary Hooper not long before that, Victor Wanyama too – so they’ve done well on that part.”
Bonner, who releases his autobiography ‘The Last Line’ on October 1, now wants to see some of the money Celtic have generated put towards better youth development, with few quality players coming through the academy.
He added: “Where it’s been disappointing, for me, is that we’ve not had enough good young players coming through the system.
“It’s becoming more difficult it seems, but I think they need to address that now because to try and go into the transfer market and buy a player who is better than what you already have is difficult.
“Other clubs in Europe are spending £20-25m on average players, including wages and fees, but Celtic just aren’t able to go out and buy a big-name striker, like they were able to 15 years ago with Chris Sutton, who was a big player in England – a Premier League winner with Blackburn.
“They can’t even think about signing a Chris Sutton equivalent now, because a Chris Sutton now would cost in the region of £30-40million. That’s the dilemma they’re in.”
Bonner played 641 times for Celtic, his only club, between 1978 and 1995. He also played 80 times for the Republic of Ireland during a 15-year international career.