It is not unfair to say that Celtic winger Sead Haksabanovic has had a mixed debut season for his new employers.

The Montenegro internationalist signed for the club on a five-year deal from Russian First League side Rubin Kazan, being the second of three transfers between the two clubs after Carl Starfelt and before Oliver Abildgaard in joining Celtic. He has been in and out of the side over the course of his first season in Scotland, with injuries and a lack of game-time halting his progress in Ange Postecoglou’s team since his arrival in Glasgow.

He has, however, impressed in flashes, scoring five goals and assisting a further four times. His direct style of play and willingness to take on opposition players make him an exciting player to watch when given the chance by the manager, although many of these opportunities have been fleeting cameos off of the Celtic bench.

Haksabanovic typically plays on the left wing for Celtic, although he has occupied the N.10 position on occasion when required. The winger, despite his lack of starts, has made 38 appearances in all competitions for the club, playing a total of 1,277 minutes across the cinch Premiership, Viaplay Cup, Scottish Cup and Champions League.

He won the Premiership Player of the Month award for November following a brace against Dundee United and a late goal versus Ross County, and it was thought that Haksabanovic would push on from here and cement himself in the starting XI.

However, the unfortunate timing of his form due to the World Cup break and an injury just before the first game back in training meant his momentum was halted, with the winger playing catch-up ever since, despite scoring two brilliant goals against Hearts and Hibs respectively after clambering off of the bench.

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This is Haksabanovic’s second foray into the British Isles, as he previously spent three years at English Premier League club West Ham United. Most of this time was away from West London, as he only made two appearances in all competitions for the club, spending time at Malaga CF and IFK Norrkoping on loan, signing permanently for the latter following his temporary spell at the club.

At Celtic, he faces stern competition when breaking into this team on a consistent basis. This comes in the shape of Japan winger Daizen Maeda, who regularly starts on the left wing, where Haksabanovic prefers to play. Maeda is perhaps not as talented a footballer as his Montenegrin team-mate, but his commitment to defensive pressing and ball retention, as well as his running off the ball make him one of Postecoglou’s go-to men in most games.

It is also an added factor that the manager and Maeda have both worked alongside each other before at club level, with the winger being signed by his current manager at previous club Yokohama F. Marinos. This longer-term relationship between the pair will make it all the more difficult for Haksabanovic to dislodge Maeda, given how familiar both are with each other due to this reunion at Celtic.


When looking into the statistics that have been accumulated by Haksabanovic so far this season on StatsBomb, one metric particularly stands out amongst the rest, and not in a good way. The winger on average commits 5.74 turnovers per 90 minutes when playing for Celtic, a statistic that places him in the third percentile for wingers in this particular metric.

This may explain why the manager elects to play him later on in games, as he may be less prone to do so coming on against tired legs in the defence when he can attack more. Compare this stat to Maeda, who turns the ball over 4.15 times, meaning he takes more care with the ball despite his perceived lack of technical ability when put alongside Haksabanovic, or does he?

The same cannot be said for passing, an area of Maeda’s game that is clearly not his strength. He averages 78 per cent passing accuracy whilst Haksabanovic’s average stands at 85 per cent - an increase of seven per cent in comparison to the Japan winger.

Despite Maeda carrying the better goal threat in terms of xG (0.29 to Haksabanovic’s 0.15) and completing more touches in the box (7.33 to 5.16 per 90 minutes), the Montenegro player completes more dribbles per game at a rate of 1.75 to Maeda’s 0.73.

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What is clear from these statistical results is that both players offer something different when deployed in the same position on the left wing. If Postecoglou wants a winger who will get involved with the defensive side of the game whilst always on the move and looking to provide an attacking outlet, then Maeda is the player to go for. Conversely, if he is aiming for a more technical winger who can slice open defences with technique, trickery and pinpoint shooting from outside the box, then Haksabanovic may be preferred in the starting line-up.

With the former getting picked ahead of the latter almost every single time, it may be time for Haksabanovic to adapt to a more rounded style of play, much like Jota has on the right-hand side this season. At 24 years old, it is still far too early to write off the talented winger, but he will need to work hard to dislodge Maeda, who currently occupies his regular position.

With the end of the season fast approaching, the chances to impress the manager are thinning for Haksabanovic. It is shaping up to be a very important pre-season for the players, and the winger will be viewing the summer months as an opportunity to force himself into Postecoglou’s starting XI plans for the new campaign ahead.