A lot has been made of Celtic’s business last summer.

Following the return of Brendan Rodgers after over four years away, there was a common thought and feeling that the club’s business would match the ambition and quality of the man in the hot seat once again. The term ‘war chest’ was thrown about throughout the mainstream media, as well as figures of £30 million to potentially spend on the first team playing squad.

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Fast forward to the unofficial midway point of the season – the current winter break – and the transfer business completed in the summer months is mixed, to say the very least. There have been some success stories – particularly in recent games - but a lot of questions still remain on the majority of players brought in during this period, and the man who identified them in Mark Lawwell.

From worst to best, here is a mid-season report card on all of the senior signings Celtic made in the summer of 2023, based on their performances – if any - in the opening months of the campaign.

Kwon Hyeok-kyu

Signed from K2 League side Busan IPark for around £1 million, Kwon was unveiled alongside both his South Korean counterpart Yang Hyun-jun and big-money signing Maik Nawrocki back in July.

The defensive midfielder made a bit of a stir when joining the club, exclaiming to the mainstream media in his homeland that he was using Celtic as essentially a stepping stone to the Premier League or the Bundesliga. If his Celtic career is anything to go by, then he has a long way to go before he can dream of playing at anywhere near that sort of level.

Yet to make a competitive appearance for the club, Kwon initially impressed in a pre-season friendly against Wolves, before having a torrid time against Athletic Club during James Forrest’s testimonial match. He has only made the bench seven times in his first six months at the club, which indicates a reluctance from the manager to trust him concerning game time.

One of a few ‘project’ players on this list, Kwon may be better off looking for a move in January, either on loan or permanently. The manager has not entrusted him with any game-time whatsoever, with his most recent outing happening for South Korea’s U23 squad. Celtic may need to cut their losses with this player, though a five-year contract may be difficult to shift.

Marco Tilio

This next player has actually been afforded game time, though only just. Moving to Scotland from his native Australia, Tilio joined the Scottish champions from Melbourne City – a City Group-owned club – on a long-term deal.

Only ahead of Kwon due to taking to the field, Tilio has been yet another strange signing from Celtic this season. Arriving at the club injured, it took the Australia international until November to make his debut for the club, coming on in stoppage time as Celtic chased a late winner against Motherwell at home. He would then get around half an hour a couple of weeks later – again at home – against Hibs but has not made a single squad since.

The manager has been open about Tilio’s struggles in acclimatising to his new surroundings. In October, he said: “It’s just time. He will admit it himself; it’s been a really, really hard transition for him.

“It’s always difficult, you are a new player coming into a club and you end up being injured virtually all of pre-season and into September. He is adapting but it’s taking a wee bit longer for him just purely because the intensity of the game is totally different to where he has come from.”

Surprisingly – despite his lack of playing time – he was named in Graham Arnold’s squad for the Asia Cup. Hopefully, he can use the tournament as a reset button, because his Celtic career has not taken off whatsoever. There have even been rumours of a loan deal for the wide player, suggesting his immediate future may lie elsewhere. Another transfer misfire for the club, at least so far.

Nat Phillips

Cast your collective minds back to August last year. Celtic were in a defensive crisis, thanks to the injuries to Cameron Carter-Vickers, new signing Maik Nawrocki and Stephen Welsh, just hours after signing his contract extension. The club needed a quick fix and turned to Liverpool’s Phillips on a loan deal until January, with an option to extend said deal if all parties were satisfied.

Alas, the Englishman is already back at his parent club, after an uninspiring time at the Scottish champions. Making a total of eight appearances during his few months up north, Phillips’ Celtic career will not be remembered with much fondness in truth. Despite playing his part in a memorable 2-2 draw with Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, Phillips’ second-half implosion at Rugby Park directly caused the side to squander a 1-0 lead away from home, inflicting the side’s first league defeat of the season as a result. This followed another mistake against Hibs just four days before, which caused many to lose faith in whatever faith they had in the former Bournemouth loanee.

The emergence of Liam Scales as a viable defensive option essentially rendered Phillips as expendable before his feet were even in the door. His exit this month was the best move for all parties.

Gustaf Lagerbielke

The decision to put Lagerbielke beneath Nawrocki in this list could potentially have a touch of recency bias attached to it, but it is clear that one is fancied at the club and the other’s future lies elsewhere in all honesty. Signed from Elfsborg as a replacement for the departing Carl Starfelt, there was a lot of buzz about the towering defender following his £3 million move from his homeland.

After starting his Celtic career fairly well – an unpunished mistake against Rangers aside – it all seemed to unravel for him after getting sent off against Feyenoord in the Champions League group stage. His appearances dried up not long after, only making the matchday squads of Champions League matches, presumably due to bigger benches.

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He did have his big Celtic moment, scoring the winner against Feyenoord in the reverse fixture, though he was nowhere to be seen in the squad just a few days later against Hearts. With assistant manager John Kennedy making the statement that a few defenders would have to be moved on this month, you would think that the Sweden international may be one of them.

Again, this lack of impact can perhaps be attributed to both the return of Carter-Vickers and the aforementioned Scales renaissance, but it is clear that Lagerbielke’s future lies elsewhere, though he is not the only one. An expensive misfire, for a player that the manager does not rate as a consistent defensive option. His appearance against St Mirren may very well have been his last at the club.

Yang Hyun-jun

From one extreme to the next, Yang has had a lot of game time since he arrived from overseas. Publicly pushing his move through from Gangwon to Celtic, Yang was highly rated when he made his move to Glasgow.

The K League 1’s Young Player of the Year in 2022 so far has made 22 appearances since joining Celtic, contributing just a single goal and assist in the process, both against Aberdeen. There have been some encouraging signs, such as good individual performances in a handful of games, but the left-winger is too inconsistent at this moment to keep his place in the team.

Not afraid to take his marker on down the wing, Yang is a frustrating player to watch, as you know the quality is there, waiting to be unleashed. A domestic loan deal to a fellow Premiership team may do him the world of good, especially considering the likes of both Daizen Maeda and Liel Abada have returned to the team, making his job of sustaining a first-team place even tougher.

There’s talent there, though that may be unearthed away from his parent club.

Odin Thiago Holm

The toughest player to place on this list, the Norwegian has been in and out of the squad throughout the season so far.

An undoubtedly talented young player, the midfielder has had more standout games than Yang, which places him ahead of the South Korean on the mid-season report card. Rodgers’ first signing since returning to the club, he has played in only 11 games thus far, starting just three of those in the process. One for the future – like many of Celtic’s signings it seems – Holm may have to go away to get game-time, or face feeding off of the scraps thanks to a busy midfield at the club. With Reo Hatate back from injury, as well as the emergence of Paulo Bernardo, Holm’s minutes on the pitch may be limited as a result.

Still, the signs are there for the Golden Boy nominee to become a very good player at Celtic. With still four and a half years left on his deal, time is very much on his side at the club, though he may have to bide it.

Maik Nawrocki

This player would have been further down the list this time a week ago, that’s for sure. Recency bias is a major factor once again, but two good performances in as many important games bode well for Celtic’s most expensive acquisition this season so far.

A £4.3 million signing from Legia Warsaw, Nawrocki instantly slotted himself into the starting line-up for the first game of the season against Ross County, where he impressed. He played every game until suffering a hamstring tear in the final seconds of Celtic’s dismal League Cup exit at the hands of Kilmarnock.

The road back to the first team has been a long one for the 22-year-old, with many assuming that the defender was in the same boat as his teammate Lagerbielke in terms of not being overly fancied as a first-team option. However, he was called upon in the Glasgow Derby - following an injury to Stephen Welsh - and played a starring role as he played the pass that started the move that finished with Kyogo Furuhashi’s screamer past Jack Butland.

Following the match, Rodgers indicated that the support would be seeing a lot more of Nawrocki, and they did not have long to wait, as he started Celtic’s next game against St Mirren, the last game before the winter break. Keeping a clean sheet, he was impressive again, showing that he is ready for the first team fight when the break concludes.

Watch this space, as 2024 could well be the breakout year for Nawrocki at Celtic.

Paulo Bernardo

Four games. Four starts. Four goal contributions.

The second half of the Benfica loanee’s December has been one for the books, as he has stepped up to the plate at Celtic during the festive period. Previous to that, the 21-year-old had made fleeting appearances, often playing in the Champions League over the Scottish Premiership due to physicality issues, according to Rodgers.

The manager rejigged his line-up following successive defeats in the league to Kilmarnock and Hearts, with Bernardo given a clean slate in the midfield to go about his business. Despite not really setting the heather alight in that game, the manager persevered, and Bernardo blossomed in Dundee, scoring the opener in a 3-0 win away from home.

This goal – coupled with his performance on the day – made him a sure-fire starter for the Glasgow Derby just four days later, which proved to be his breakout game at Celtic. Scoring the opener and being a constant menace to the opposition, Bernardo had arrived, making himself a regular first-team player in the process. He followed it up by contributing two assists three days later against St Mirren, prompting many to demand Celtic to take up the €6 million option to buy on his loan deal.

With Hatate now back and fully fit, Bernardo faces a battle to stay in the team. He’ll be up for the challenge however, with the prospect of a permanent contract the reward at the end of this current season. A big six months ahead for the Portuguese U21 international.

Luis Palma

Realistically, was it going to be anyone else?

Thankfully other new players have stepped up to the plate in recent times, as this has been effectively a one-horse race since he made his debut.

The numbers don’t lie for the Honduras international. Seven goals and nine assists in his first six months at the club is some going, though many will argue that he should have more given the number of chances he both makes for his opponents and squanders himself. Not afraid to take a shot or cross, Celtic have had a lot of joy in the wide areas thanks to Palma’s introduction.

Some of his half-season highlights include the wonderful assist to Matt O’Riley at Tynecastle, his long-range screamer against Ross County at Dingwall and his pinpoint shot versus Atletico Madrid. His goals and assists against Kilmarnock and Aberdeen both deserve honourable mentions also.

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Although he is nowhere near the finished article just yet, he ranks top of this report card by a considerable margin. The rest of Celtic’s signings have been in and out of the squad, whilst Palma’s influence and participation have been constant since his arrival. Yes, his form has dropped over the past month or so, but he is still contributing with both goals and assists, as well as being a capable penalty kick taker.

It is up to him to keep this top spot in terms of summer signings, as the recent rise of Bernardo may spell competition in that regard. Plenty more to come from Palma, though the signs look mostly positive since his £3.5 million arrival from Aris FC in Greece.