Celtic FC Opinion: Paddy McNair could hand the Hoops some defensive boost
However, if Celtic are serious about bringing the 24-year-old Northern Irishman north of the border this summer, they would need to fend off interest from Premier League newcomers Sheffield United. (h/t Belfast Live)
Celtic have already made a strong statement of intent with the acquisition of French centre-back Christopher Jullien from Toulouse for a fee of £7million, while 18-year-old Bolton prodigy Luca Connell has also made his move to Parkhead this summer.
However, Lennon is seemingly targeting a few more additions before the transfer deadline, with McNair believed to be on his radar.
The 24-year-old versatile defender impressed for Northern Ireland in the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Estonia and Belarus recently, scoring the winner against the latter to cap off a superb midfield performance.
The ex-Man United star joined Middlesbrough from Sunderland last summer, following the Black Cats’ relegation to League One but he found regular minutes hard to come by under former manager Tony Pulis this past season.
The 24-year-old made only 23 appearances in all competitions for Boro, as the Teessiders missed out on a spot in the playoffs, and he might be on the move just a year after joining the club, with Sheffield United and Celtic prepared to offer him an escape route.
McNair made a total of 27 appearances for Man United from 2014 to 2016 before joining Sunderland.
He was held in high regard in the youth ranks at Old Trafford and enjoyed quite a lot of involvement under Louis van Gaal but a move to Sunderland didn’t really work in his favour, with the Black Cats suffering back-to-back relegations.
It is still unclear what plans new Boro manager Jonathan Woodgate has in mind for him next season but McNair might as well be tempted by the prospect of playing in the Champions League with Celtic.
Essentially a defensive midfielder by trade, McNair is noted for his versatility as a footballer, with his ability to fill in at centre-back, right-back and also in a box-to-box role in the midfield, making him a real asset to any team.
That, coupled with his well-built 6ft. 2-inch frame, supreme aerial ability, well-rounded ball-playing attributes and ability to break up the play with crucial interventions make him a good fit for virtually any position at the back.
To put things into perspective, McNair’s versatility to play in multiple positions across the backline and also as a holding midfielder should make him an exciting proposition for Celtic.
The Hoops are currently in a defensive crisis following the departures of Dedryck Boyata, Filip Benkovic, Mikael Lustig, Jeremy Toljan, Emilio Izaguirre and Cristian Gamboa, and while the signing of Jullien has somewhat mitigated that crisis, there are still a lot of gaps to be plugged at the back ahead of the upcoming season.
Having signed a new centre-back, bringing in a new right-back should be at the top of Lennon’s priority list, given that the Hoops currently do not have a single senior option in that area of the pitch.
McNair is not really a natural right-back but he has shown before that he is capable of operating in that position, whilst the Hoops can also afford to look at him as someone who could possibly keep the likes of Kristoffer Ajer and Jozo Simunovic on their toes for a place at the heart of the defence.
Suffice to say, Celtic currently lack adequate depth and quality in their ranks at the back and McNair’s versatility could offer Lennon with valuable cover in more than one area of the pitch.
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The Hoops will be under pressure to make it nine in a row over arch-rivals Rangers in the Scottish Premiership next season and the 24-year-old’s arrival could hand them a much-needed boost before the upcoming campaign gets underway.