The top 20 most profitable player sales of Peter Lawwell’s 17 year stint as Celtic chief executive

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WHEN the January transfer window closed last Monday night it brought an end to Peter Lawwell’s involvement in player recruitment at Celtic after over 17 years.

Lawwell, who took over from Ian McLeod back in 2003, will retire as their chief executive in June and be replaced by Scottish Rugby chief operating officer Dominic McKay.

Last month’s incomings and outgoings were typical of his lengthy spell at the helm of the Parkhead club – the sale of Jeremie Frimpong to German outfit Bayer Leverkusen for £11.5m made a substantial profit.

The disastrous campaign that Neil Lennon’s team has made him an unpopular figure with the Celtic supporters and the warm-weather training break to Dubai last month saw him subjected to savage criticism from the public and politcians.

Lawwell has certainly overseen some poor acquisitions during his time in the East End of Glasgow – Amido Balde, Mo Bangura, Derk Boerrigter, Efrain Juarez, Stefan Scepovic didn’t really work out.

However, the quadruple treble winners have got more right than wrong on his watch – Moussa Dembele, Fraser Forster, Ki Sung-Yueng, Victor Wanyama and Virgil van Dijk were all superb and made them fortunes.

and Times Sport has taken a look at all of the transfer activity Celtic have conducted since Lawwell came on board and compiled lists of the best and the worst of the signings.

We have also broken down how much money Celtic made or lost from their transfers since the 2003/04 and looked at how well they performed domestically and in Europe each term.   

1 – Kieran Tierney – £25m to Arsenal in 2019 (£25m profit).

The Isle of Man-born and Wishaw-raised defender signed for his boyhood heroes aged just seven in 2005 and made his way through the youth ranks until Ronny Deila handed him his first team debut in 2015 at 17.

He went from strength to strength thereafter, displaced Emilio Izaguirre at left back and became a regular under both Deila and his successor Brendan Rodgers. He helped the Parkhead club win four consecutive Premiership titles and lift two League Cups and two Scottish Cups.

The fans recognised his commitment to their cause and took him to their hearts. He sat with them in the stands cheering on the team when he wasn’t strutting his stuff on the park.

Fast, brave, skilful, offensive and physical, he was soon attracting admiring glances from managers in England and across Europe. Many previously adoring supporters turned on him when he joined Arsenal for £25m in 2019. But it was a sensational bit of business. He cost nothing and left for a Scottish record fee.

2 – Moussa Dembele – £19.7m to Lyon in 2018 (£19.2m profit).

After three seasons at Fulham, the French forward joined Celtic for just £500,000 in 2016 just after Brendan Rodgers took over as manager.

Fans were soon wondering how the Parkhead club had managed to acquire such a prodigiously gifted talent for so little.

He became the first Celtic player to score a hat-trick against Rangers since Harry Hood in 1973 and the first to do so in a league game since Stevie Chalmers in 1966 when he netted three goals in a 5-1 triumph at Rangers in September.

It wasn’t a one-off. He followed that up with a double in an exhilarating 3-3 draw with Manchester City in the Champions League group stages. He would be on target no fewer than 34 times in the 2016/17 as Rodgers’ men went undefeated, completed the treble and were dubbed The Invincibles.

Injuries blighted Dembele’s second season, but he still pitched in with 16 goals in 39 appearances. His departure was inevitable and after a protracted and occasionally acrimonious transfer saga he joined Lyon in his homeland for £19.7m in 2018.

3 – Victor Wanyama – £12.5m to Southampton in 2013 (£11.6m profit).

Celtic’s perseverance in pursuing the defensive midfielder proved well worth it. Beerschot AC in Belgium rejected their advances in 2010. But they returned the following year and got their man after tabling a £900,000 transfer.

The 20-year-old chose the number 67 in honour of the Lisbon Lions, the 1967 European Cup winners. He would excel in continental competition himself. He became the first Kenyan to score in the Champions League the following year when he netted a powerful header in a famous 2-1 triumph over Barcelona at Parkhead.

He joined Southampton for a £12.5m fee the following year and became the most expensive footballer ever sold by a Scottish club.  

4 – Jeremie Frimpong – £11.5 to Bayer Leverkusen in 2021 (£11.175m profit).

Celtic’s performance in the Betfred Cup final against Rangers in 2019 was far from their best. They received something of a battering at the hands of their city rivals and only won thanks to an inspired performance by Fraser Forster in goals and a fortuitous Christopher Jullien goal.  

But Jeremie Frimpong, the Dutch teenager who had only arrived from Manchester City a matter of months earlier, was exceptional at right back. He became a social media sensation when his post-match interview – and his “of my days!” remark – went viral. But the defender was far more than a quirky soundbite.

His form, unsurprisingly for one so young, fluctuated. His final ball into the box left much to be desired. But on his day he was a handful for any opposing full-back and was reliable defensively too. His promise convinced Bayer Leverkusen of Germany to shell out £11.5m for him last month just a season and a half after he was signed for just £325,000.  

5 – Aiden McGeady – £9.5m to Spartak Moscow in 2010 (£9.5m profit).

The Glasgow-born Republic of Ireland internationalist may have won 93 caps for his adopted homeland and played at the highest level in Russia and England. But his career promised more at the outset. He was an exceptional talent when he broke through at Celtic aged 19 in 2004.

He was a key player for Parkhead side that won three consecutive Scottish titles and reached the Champions League group stages twice between 2005 and 2008 despite not having an especially harmonious relationship with manager Gordon Strachan.

He became only the second person to be named PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year and Player of the Year in the same season – Shaun Maloney had been the first – in 2008.   

After another two seasons in the East End of Glasgow, during which he was unable to help Celtic reclaim the Premier League, he joined Spartak Moscow for a Scottish record £9.5m fee. It was a fair return for a youth product who had given years of outstanding service.  

6 – Virgil van Dijk – £11.5 to Southampton in 2015 (£8.9m profit).

The world’s best defender rose to prominence during the two years that he spent at Celtic. The Dutch centre half was signed from Groningen in his homeland for £2.6m in 2013 and quickly showed why he had caught the attention of head of recruitment John Park.

Van Dijk was, at 6ft 4in tall, an imposing physical presence. But he was a great athlete as well who was fast and good with the ball at his feet. He helped Ronny Deila’s side win successive Premiership titles and the League Cup before being snapped up by Southampton for £11.5m in 2015.

He hasn’t looked back since. When he moved to Liverpool for £75m, a world record amount for a defender, three years ago Celtic reportedly picked up 10 per cent of the fee due to a sell-on clause they had insisted on.   

7 – Fraser Forster – £10m to Southampton in 2014 (£8m profit).

After two seasons at Celtic on loan from Newcastle United, the goalkeeper moved to Parkhead permanently in 2012 for £2m. The 6ft 7in stopper built on the success that he had already enjoyed. He set a new club record when he kept 11 successive clean sheets in 2014.He then broke a Scottish record for not conceding a goal by going 1,256 minutes without picking the ball out of his net.  

He made his debt for England that term. It was inevitable a Premier League club would come calling and he joined Southampton for £10m in 2014.  

8 – Stuart Armstrong – £7m to Southampton in 2018 (£5m profit).

It took Armstrong time to establish himself at Celtic after joined from Dundee United along with his Tannadice team mate Gary Mackay-Steven in the January of 2015. He was often played out of position and struggled to show the form that he had displayed on Tayside.

But the arrival of Brendan Rodgers to Glasgow in 2016 brought out the best in him. The cultured, intelligent, attacking midfielder was a regular in the team that went undefeated domestically in the 2016/17 season and contributed 17 goals.

The Scotland internationalist was keen to try his luck in England and jumped at the chance to join Southampton in 2018.   

9 – Ki Sung-Yueng – £6m to Swansea City in 2012 (£3.9 profit).

The former Asian Young Player of the Year was just 20 when he moved from Seoul to Celtic in a £2.1m transfer at the end of 2009, but travelling halfway across the world at such a tender age didn’t affect him. He won the Man of the Match award on his debut against Falkirk.

The highlight of his first full season was the 35 yard screamer he scored in a Scottish Cup final triumph against Motherwell at Hampden. He picked up the Man of the Match award in that game too.

He became a regular in Neil Lennon’s first team, flourished in the intense atmosphere of the Old Firm derby and played his part in the Parkhead club’s Scottish title success in the 2011/12 campaign before departing to Swansea City.

10 – Stiliyan Petrov – £6.5m to Aston Villa in 2006 (£3.7m profit).

A member of the Celtic side that reached the UEFA Cup final in 2003, the hard-working box-to-box midfielder remained at Parkhead after Martin O’Neill left in 2005. The Bulgarian helped Gordon Strachan to recover from his disappointing start and win the Premier League and League Cup double.

Stan, as he was affectionately known, signed a four year contract extension at the start of 2006. But that was simply so the Glasgow club would receive a fee for him when he departed. He was reunited with O’Neill at Aston Villa that summer. He is held in high regard by supporters to this day.

11- Gary Hooper – £5.5m to Norwich City in 2013 (£3.1m profit).

12- Kenny Miller – £3m to Derby County in 2007 (£3m profit).

13- Scott McDonald – £3.5m to Middlesbrough (£2.8m profit).

14- Kelvin Wilson – £2.5m to Nottingham Forest in 2013 (£2.5m profit).

15 – Adam Matthews – £2m to Sunderland in 2015 (£2m profit).

16 – Gary Caldwell – £1.8m to Wigan Athletic in 2010 (£1.8m profit).

17 – Stephen McManus – £1.5m to Middlesbrough in 2010 (£1.5m profit).

18 – Shaun Maloney – £1m to Aston Villa in 2007 (£1m profit).

19 – Artur Boruc – £1.7m to Forentina in 2010 (£800,000 profit).

20 – Tony Watt – £1.2m to Standard Liege in 2014 (£400,000 profit).

 

SEASON BY SEASON TRANSFER PERFORMANCE

Season 2003/04

Europe: Champions League group stages, UEFA Cup quarter-final.

League: Winners.

League Cup: Quarter-final.

Scottish Cup: Winners.  

Transfer expenditure: Zero.

Transfer income: £900,000.

Transfer profit: £900,000.

 

Season 2004/05

Europe: Champions League group stage.

League: Runners-up.

League Cup: Quarter-finals.

Scottish Cup: Winners.  

Transfer expenditure: Zero.

Transfer income: – Zero

Profit: Zero.

 

Season 2005/06

 

Europe: Champions League, second qualifying round.

League: Winners.

League Cup: Winners.

Scottish Cup: Third round.  

Transfer expenditure: £8.1m.

Transfer income: Zero.

Loss: £8.1.

 

Season 2006/07

 

Europe: Champions League, last 16.

League: Winners.

League Cup: Quarter-finals.

Scottish Cup: Winners.  

Transfer expenditure: £9.65m.

Transfer income: £7.83m.

Loss: £1.82m.

 

Season 2007/08

Europe: Champions League, last 16.

League: Winners.

League Cup: Quarter-finals.

Scottish Cup: Quarter-finals.  

Transfer expenditure: £11.6m.

Transfer income: £6.8m.

Loss: £4.8m.

 

Season 2008/09

 

Europe: Champions League, group stage.

League: Runners-up.

League Cup: Winners.

Scottish Cup: Quarter-final.  

Transfer expenditure: £9.2m.

Transfer income: £1.7m.

Loss: £7.5m.

 

Season 2009/10

 

Europe: Europa League, group stage.

League: Runners-up.

League Cup: Quarter-final.

Scottish Cup: Semi-final.  

Transfer expenditure: £11.4m.

Transfer income: £9.6m.

Loss: £1.8m.

 

Season 2010/11

 

Europe: Europa League, play-off round.

League: Runners-up.

League Cup: Runners-up.

Scottish Cup: Winners.  

Transfer expenditure: £10.2m.

Transfer income: £15.9m

Profit: £5.7m.

 

Season 2011/12

 

Europe: Europa League, group stage.

League: Winners.

League Cup: Runners-up.

Scottish Cup: Semi-final.  

Transfer expenditure: £3.1m.

Transfer income: £2.65m.

Loss: £450,000.

 

Season 2012/13

 

Europe: Champions League, last 16.

League: Winners.

League Cup: Semi-finals.

Scottish Cup: Winners.  

Transfer expenditure: £3.9m.

Transfer income: £8.15m.

Profit: £4.25.

 

Season 2013/14

 

Europe: Champions League, group stage.

League: Winners.

League Cup: Third round.  

Scottish Cup: Fifth round.  

Transfer expenditure: £13.6m.

Transfer income: £21m.

Profit: £7.4m.

 

Season 2014/15

 

Europe: Europa League, last 32.

League: Winners.

League Cup: Winners.

Scottish Cup: Semi-final.  

Transfer expenditure: £4.55m.

Transfer income: £11.825m.

Profit: £7.275m.

 

Season 2015/16

Europe: Europa League, group stage.

League: Winners.

League Cup: Semi-final.

Scottish Cup: Semi-final.  

Transfer expenditure: £8.275m.

Transfer income: £14m.

Profit: £5.725m.

 

Season 2016/17

Europe: Champions League, group stage.

League: Winners.

League Cup: Winners.

Scottish Cup: Winners.  

Transfer expenditure: £7.6m.

Transfer income: £3m.

Loss: £4.6m.

 

Season 2017/18

Europe: Champions League, group stage. Europa League, last 32.

League: Winners.

League Cup: Winners.

Scottish Cup: Winners.  

Transfer expenditure: £8.3m.

Transfer income: Zero.

Loss: £8.3m.

 

Season 2018/19

Europe: Champions League, third qualifying round. Europa League, last 32.

League: Winners.

League Cup: Winners.

Scottish Cup: Winners.  

Expenditure: £12.7m.

Income: £27.7m.

Profit: £15m.

 

Season 2019/20

Europe: Champions League, third qualifying round. Europa League, last 32.

League: Winners.

League Cup: Winners.

Scottish Cup: Winners.

Transfer expenditure: £19.65m.

Transfer income: £25m.

Profit: £5.35m.

 

Season 2020/21

Europe: Champions League, second qualifying round. Europa League, group stage.

League: TBC.

League Cup: Second round.

Scottish Cup: TBC.  

Transfer expenditure: £12.25m.

Transfer income: £11.5m.

Loss: £775,000.

 

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