What to know about coveted Celtic playmaker Ryan Christie
Such a proven pool of talent is Celtic who rarely spends a month without interest in any of their 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 who gets some of the Premier League’s best and brightest under the collar.
The first day of the January transfer window, 90 mins has learned that Arsenal have joined the long line of clubs who are seriously considering Celtic’s determination towards the prolific playmaker. It comes less than a fortnight after we communicated to you Leicester’s interest with Brendan Rodgers wanting to end up in the Midlands.
But what is it all about?
In any case, according to former Scotland manager Craig Brown.
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 in Aberdeen when the Pittodrie team had both Christie and James Maddison on loan in 2016/17.
Perhaps it was Maddison who invariably made the headlines, his stunning free kick against the Rangers making him an immediate Dons hero. Brown, however, said he would take Christie over Maddison any day of the week.
He said (according to The Herald): “I watched every game Maddison played and every game Christie played for Aberdeen, and my opinion was that Christie was the better player. And yet Maddison went to Leicester City for £ 20million and is now part of the England squad.
“He scored a great goal against Rangers which obviously made him a hero in Aberdeen, but when I watched those two guys Christie was better for me.
“They’ve both grown since then, obviously, but if you ask me which of these players I would prefer to have on my team, then I would prefer Christie over Maddison.”
As an attacking midfielder, playing for a Celtic team that has made goals so easy in recent seasons, you’d expect Christie to come in with a few.
Even still, his strike rate is pretty bizarre.
After scoring 20 goals in 45 appearances for Celtic last season, he has averaged around one goal in every three appearances (37 in 123) since joining Parkhead.
He has scored 15 in 57 appearances in two periods for Aberdeen, and has already scored four times for Scotland. It was four different matches, including his haunting strike in the final victory over Serbia that led his country to Euro 2020.
Not only does he score a decent number of goals, but he does so at a consistent pace.
The Arjen Robben tartan? Not for me to say.
But coming from the right on your left foot and curling one in the far corner becomes a characteristic gesture of Christie’s.
If there was a statistical measure that took into account the quality and Lots of goals (there are probably some, @ me), then Christie would top the charts across Europe.
Because of her 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 it this season: there’s a good chunk of Celtic fans who say they wouldn’t mind seeing him behind him.
He’s been criticized for wasting possession, but even by the FBRef’s strict definition of assists (not counting penalties won, for example) he’s helped eight in all competitions this season. That’s twice as much 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 should also be noted that 16 of these targets were engaged in European competitions. He has had assists in both matches against AC Milan this season and beat Lazio alone at Parkhead about a year ago.
Whatever the perception, it does not hide on great occasions. And if his reputation as a best player has diminished, it is because the Celtic team in general regressed.
One of Christie’s biggest assets for Celtic has been her versatility. He’s been used mostly on the right flank, as he’s terribly straightforward and wreaks untold havoc when pushing inside on his left foot, but he’s equally effective in a central attacking midfielder role.
He can be used on the left as a lineman, and was used by Steve Clarke as a second striker on the international stage, playing with Lyndon Dykes to great effect against Serbia.
He also played deeper in midfield. He is not a guardian, nor a defender: but he protects you for everything else.
Along with his creative threat and willingness to play anywhere on the pitch, another big failure in Christie’s column is that he doesn’t get tired.
He was one of the few Scottish players to start all three games at the November internationals and still finished 90 minutes against Hibs days later. Its management complained.
But Christie is too keen on playing soccer to care.
He said, according to the Glasgow Times: “I think any manager with the players would be the same. It was the same with John McGinn at Villa and KT (Kieran Tierney) at Arsenal.
“Clubs are always going to have a little whimper when you ask players to play three games in a short period of time. But for me personally, I’m definitely not going to complain about being able to play for my country as many times as possible.
“I want to accumulate the hats so I never hear myself complain about it. I still felt cool on Saturday and managed to finish 90 minutes without a problem. “
Christie is a great player. Not perfect, and maybe not quite elite standard, but he’s able to take the game off anyone when he’s on his game. He’s a tireless runner with a frankness, intensity, and left-footed wand that will get fans out of their seats … as they are allowed to return.
More than that, however, he is one of the most genuine and honest professional footballers you can find. And while he might not be Celtic’s most popular figure amid their current struggles (who is?), It’s hard not to like him.
“Ohhh I’m gone!”
Words that will be remembered for a long time in Scottish football no matter what Christie’s next move.