Things to know about coveted Celtic playmaker Ryan Christie

Robbie Copeland
Zlatan in awe of Ryan Christie
Zlatan in awe of Ryan Christie / Mark Runnacles/Getty Images
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Such a proven breeding ground for talent are Celtic that rarely a month goes by without interest emerging in one of their prize assets.

But while it's normally Odsonne Edouard, Kristoffer Ajer or another of their prodigious foreign talents in the headlines, this time it's Ryan Christie getting some of the Premier League's best and brightest hot under the collar.

On the first day of the new year and with the transfer window about to open, 90min learned that Arsenal have joined the extensive queue of clubs who are putting serious thought into testing Celtic's resolve over the prolific playmaker. That comes less than a fortnight after we told you of Leicester's interest, with Brendan Rodgers keen on reuniting in the Midlands.

But what's all the fuss about?


1. He's better than James Maddison

That's according to former Scotland manager Craig Brown, anyway.

Brown is a legendary figure in the Scottish game, held in high regard by the great Sir Alex Ferguson, and was working as an ambassador at Aberdeen when the Pittodrie side had both Christie and James Maddison on loan in 2016/17.

It may have been Maddison who invariably grabbed the headlines, his stunning free-kick against Rangers making him an immediate Dons hero. Brown, however, says he would take Christie over Maddison any day of the week.

He said (per The Herald): “I watched every game that Maddison played and every game that Christie played for Aberdeen, and my opinion was that Christie was the better player. And yet, Maddison went to Leicester City for £20m and is now in the England squad.

“He scored a great goal against Rangers which obviously made him a hero in Aberdeen, but when I looked at those two guys, Christie was better for me.

“They have both developed since then obviously, but if you ask me which of those players I would rather have in my team, then I would rather have Christie than Maddison."


2. Consistent source of goals

As an attacking midfielder, playing in a Celtic team who have made scoring goals look so easy for the past few seasons, you'd expect Christie to chip in with a few.

Even still, though, his strike rate is pretty freakish.

Having netted 20 goals in 45 appearances for Celtic last season, he has averaged roughly a goal every three appearances (37 in 123) since arriving at Parkhead.

He netted 15 in his 57 appearances over two spells with Aberdeen, and has already scored four times for Scotland. Those came four different matches, including his spellbinding strike in the eventual win over Serbia that took his country to Euro 2020.

Not only does he score a decent number of goals, but he does so at a consistent rate.


3. Flair for the dramatic

The Tartan Arjen Robben? Not for me to say.

But coming in from the right onto his left foot and curling one into the far corner is becoming a signature move of Christie's.

If there was a statistical measurement that took into account quality and quantity of goals (there probably is, @ me) then Christie would top the charts right across Europe.


4. Scotland's best creator

Christie gave Theo Hernandez a game
Christie gave Theo Hernandez a game / Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

As a consequence of his tendency to try the spectacular, Christie is often one of the first scapegoats fans turn to when things aren't going well. We've seen that this season: there is a fair portion of Celtic fans who say they wouldn't mind seeing the back of him.

He has been criticised for his wastefulness in possession, yet even by FBRef's strict definition of assists (not counting penalties won, for example) he has assisted eight in all competitions this season. That's twice as many as any other Celtic player.

Since the start of last season, he has been directly involved in 51 goals. Only Odsonne Edouard, in all of Scottish football, can boast better numbers than that.

It's also worth noting that 16 of those goal involvements came in European competitions. He laid on assists in both games against AC Milan this season and beat Lazio by himself at Parkhead a year or so ago.

Regardless of the perception, he doesn't hide on the big occasions. And if his reputation as a top player has diminished any, it's because the Celtic team as a whole has regressed.


5. Versatility? Completed it mate

Christie holds off Jamie Robson
Christie holds off Jamie Robson / Pool/Getty Images

One of Christie's biggest assets to Celtic has been his versatility. He has predominantly been used off the right flank, since he is devastatingly direct and causes untold havoc driving inside onto his left foot, but is just as effective in a central attacking midfield role.

He can be used off the left as more of a byline winger, and has been used by Steve Clarke as a second striker on the international stage, playing off Lyndon Dykes to great effect against Serbia.

He's played deeper in midfield too. He's not a keeper, and he's not a defender: but he's got you covered for everything else.


6. Just wants to play football

In addition to his creative menace and his willingness to play anywhere on the pitch, another big check in Christie's column is that he doesn't tire.

He was one of a handful of Scotland players to start all three of their matches in the November internationals and still completed 90 minutes against Hibs a few days later. His manager complained about it.

But Christie is just too infectiously enthusiastic about playing football to care.

He said, per the Glasgow Times: “I think very manager with the players would be the same. It was the same with John McGinn at Villa and KT (Kieran Tierney) at Arsenal as well.

“The clubs are always going to have a wee moan when players are asked to play three games in a short so pace of time. But for me personally, I’m certainly not going to complain about getting to play for my country as many times as I can.

“I want to rack up the caps so you are never going to hear me complain about it. I still felt fresh on Saturday and managed to complete 90 minutes with no problems.”


7. Takes nothing for granted

Christie is a great player. Not flawless, and maybe not quite elite standard, but he's capable of taking the game to just about anyone when he's on his game. He's tireless runner with a directness, intensity, and wand of a left foot that will get fans off their seats...as and when they're allowed to return.

More than that, though, he's one of the most refreshingly real and honest professional footballers you'll find. And while he may not be the most popular figure at Celtic amid their current struggles (who is?), it's hard to dislike the guy.

"Ohhh I'm gone!"

Words that will live long in the Scottish football memory, no matter what Christie's next move is.


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