Celtic are reportedly considering a move for Nantes left-back Quentin Merlin.

The French under-21 international, who played 31 times for the Ligue 1 club in 2022/23, is reported to be valued between £6.8million and £10.3 million. The Scottish Champions would likely face stiff competition for the 21-year-old, who scored once and provided two assists in last season’s French top flight.

This scouting report will take a closer look at Merlin, examining his data, assessing his playing style, and outlining his key strengths, as well as areas for improvement.

Player Profile

A product of Nantes’ academy, Merlin made his debut in February 2021 before signing his first professional contract with the club in March 2021. He has since gone on to make over 60 appearances for the Brittany club, scoring three goals and providing six assists. He was also part of the Nantes side that lifted the French Cup in the 21/22 season which secured a spot in the Europa League. Merlin made four appearances in the competition last season, as he gained his first taste of European football.

Capped five times at under-21 level, Merlin has represented France at several age levels from under-16s upwards.

A forward player in his youth career, Merlin has become an attacking full-back/wing-back in the early years of his professional career. Last season, he played most often as a left-back in Nantes' favoured 4-2-3-1/4-1-4-1 shape, but he did also play as a wing-back when they switched to a back three/back five on occasions. He also played a handful of minutes at left wing.

In terms of his physical profile, he is 5ft 8in, which is a similar height to current Celtic first-choice left-back Greg Taylor. He has a slightly wider frame than the Scotland international and decent athleticism, though.

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Data Analysis

The above percentile rank chart can start to build more of a picture of Merlin’s style of play. The chart uses Wyscout per-90-minute data converted into percentile ranks to compare him with other full-backs and wing-backs in last season’s Ligue 1. The chart includes several key attacking, possession and defending metrics.

Looking at his attacking section first, we can see Merlin’s three goal-contributions in last season’s league campaign (0.05 goals per 90 and 0.1 assists per 90) rank well versus other full-backs and wing-backs in Ligue 1. This was around the same as his expected goal contributions (0.04 xG per 90 and 0.17 xA per 90). The attacking section shows that Merlin is a high-volume crosser - his 3.93 crosses per 90 ranking in the 90th percentile - while he boasts an above-average accuracy rate of 32.93 per cent.

In the possession section, we can see Merlin ranks just above average for his volume of carries, which combines dribbles and progressive runs. Merlin registered 2.23 dribbles per 90 and 1.87 progressive runs in last season’s Ligue 1. In terms of passing, he was relatively active, averaging 44.78 per 90, which sees him rank just below the 75th percentile against his positional peers. He was also one of the most active on the ball relative to the rest of his Nantes team-mates too. That was despite Nantes not being a possession-heavy side last season either, their average possession was 46.23 per cent (401 passes attempted per 90).

His pass completion of 77.97 per cent sees him rank in the bottom quartile compared to other full-backs and wing-backs in the league. However, as we can also see in his possession section, this may have been down to Merlin attempting more ambitious passes. His 10.59 progressive passes per 90 and 1.44 dangerous passes, a combination of through passes (0.72 per 90) and key passes (0.72 per 90) were both among the most of any wide defender in Ligue 1.

Merlin’s defensive section shows he was involved in a below-average number of both defensive (6.51 per 90) and aerial duels (1.87 per 90) last season. His success rates in both types of duels were also below average. His aerial win rate (43.59 per cent) does rank a bit more favourably than his defensive duel rate (57.35 per cent).

Finally, on his defensive section, we can see Merlin averaged one of the lowest shots blocked numbers (0.05 per 90) while he registered a just-above-average number of 5.69 possession-adjusted interceptions per 90.


As indicated in the data analysis, much of Merlin’s attacking output comes in the form of crosses. He gets to plenty of crossing opportunities by always offering himself as an outlet in attacking phases, staying high and wide in the build-up. 

The above graphic from Wyscout gives further insight into Merlin’s crossing, showing variation in terms of the locations from where he delivers his crosses from. These crosses are executed primarily with his stronger left foot. He gets good action on the ball, delivering pacey, whipped crosses from deep positions, such as in the below example.

He is also capable of playing quick combinations with the winger on his side to create space to cross from higher areas too, such as in the next example.

Here, Merlin plays a quick one-two with winger Moses Simon, creating space to deliver a low ball into the box. He shows good variation in his movement in the final third as well, making underlapping runs as well as overlapping runs. The below example shows Merlin, making an underlapping run beyond the defensive line to cross for a chance at the back-post.

As much as he provides a decent threat from his crossing, he could still work on improving his accuracy. There are times he overhits towards the back-post or his cutbacks miss out on team-mates arriving in the box. As seen in his data profile, he only ranked just above average for his accuracy, with the below scatter plot visualising just how many other full-backs/wing-backs in last year’s Ligue 1 managed higher crossing accuracy rates than Merlin.

Overall, his level of attacking output scaled relatively well to European football last season, though, as can be seen in the below radar from StatsBomb.

Although a small sample of just 4.3 90s, Merlin generated an xGAssisted value of 0.25 per 90 across those games. It should be noted though that much of this came from dead-ball situations, with Merlin often on set-pieces for Nantes due to his quality of delivery. This, of course, should also be considered with his xA numbers from the earlier data analysis too.


Providing a decent threat in the final third, Merlin contributes well in terms of ball progression too, as shown in the data analysis section.

The above scatterplot shows only four other full-backs/wing-backs completed more progressive passes than Merlin in Ligue 1 last season, with the graphic below - from Wyscout - digging deeper into Merlin’s ball progression actions.

Mapping all his ball progression actions from the last calendar year, it shows an impressive accuracy rate over longer distances of progressive passes, although his short-range could be an area he can improve on. More often than not from his excellent left foot, Merlin distributes with purpose, always looking to play forward. He has a nice weight to his passes, particularly over longer distances. An example of this is shown below.

Here, in a Europa League match last season, Merlin showcases his impressive technical ability in possession, bending a ball down the line and in behind the opposition which gets his teammate Simon on the ball in the final third. He also shows good vision to play inside too, such as in the below example from the same Europa League game.

In this example, Merlin takes up a high and wide position on the touchline, as Nantes build-up from the back on the opposite side. As the play develops over to his side of the pitch, he drops to receive from his left centre-back before punching a crisp ball in behind the opposition midfield line to pick out a teammate. On this occasion, the move resulted in the opening goal for Nantes.

Overall, in possession, Merlin is very comfortable and, in general, seems to cope well enough under pressure. He can be somewhat over-reliant on his left foot which can limit his options, and as mentioned, his passing over shorter distances is one area he could tidy up going forward. Developing his ball-carrying ability would also add further variation to Merlin’s game in possession.

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As highlighted previously, the defensive side of the game is where Merlin has the most room for improvement.

Inevitably - given his eagerness to get forward and support attacking moves - there are occasions Merlin is caught up the pitch. He does have a decent engine on him, though, and works back well. More often than not, he gets back in but he could be more aggressive in those 1v1 situations. Adept at showing opposition attackers down the outside thanks to his stronger left, there are times he fails to get tight and can allow a winger back inside which can lead to crosses coming into the box or shots on goal. An example of this can be seen below.

Here, despite having a decent body position to stand up the attacker, Merlin fails to get tight enough or then readjust to shut off the route inside towards the goal for the attacker. On this occasion, he offered too much space, allowing the winger inside to open up his body and finish into the far corner.

This defensive weakness in his game likely stems from converting from an attacking player, and it may be something that - despite his quality going forward - has put off bigger clubs from making a move for Merlin just yet. At 21, he still has plenty of time for improvement with those likely to come as he gains more experience.

There are still positives to the defensive side of his game too. As can be seen in the above graphic, Merlin certainly does cover a lot of the left side when it comes to defensive actions.

He is generally clean in his defensive actions too, averaging only 0.53 fouls per 90 in all competitions last season. He also reads the game quite well, such as in the below example, where he anticipates the pass forward to step inside and cut the ball out.

Given this ability to get up and down well, there are some good examples of Merlin intercepting higher up the pitch and covering the centre of the pitch in transitions well. The next graphic highlights some of these recoveries higher up the pitch, specifically in the final third.

Here, we can see Merlin has averaged one recovery in the final third in the last calendar year in Ligue 1 and 0.5 dangerous recoveries with his total of 26 recoveries in the final third leading to 15 shots. These shots were worth an xG value of 1.65 and led to two goals. 


Merlin profiles very much as a modern-day full-back. Excelling in attack and contributing well in possession, he does, of course, have parts of his game to develop, particularly defensively.

If he was more developed defensively, though, there is every chance he would already be a £20 million-plus player. Some of those underdeveloped areas of his game mean he may still just be within Celtic’s reach.

His signing would therefore represent a real coup as - should he develop those parts of his game - he could have a very high ceiling indeed. Champions League football may well offer the young French full-back the kind of platform he needs to develop those aspects of his game at the highest level too. Should Celtic follow up on their interest and look to bring him to Parkhead, they will hope that kind of challenge would appeal to Merlin.

The level of transfer target fans have been looking for, with Greg Taylor’s early season struggles adapting to the new manager’s playing style and Alexandro Bernabei being out of the picture, Merlin would ultimately, and considerably, enhance the quality of the left-back position at the club.