"I’d love to keep him at the football club if he wants to stay.”

It doesn’t get more succinct than that: Ange Postecoglou is a fan of Ryan Christie.

“Outstanding” was another descriptor the Celtic boss used for the midfielder, as was “intelligent” and “hard-working”.

The fact his contract expires in January and the club could look to cash in for whatever amount they can get before the transfer window shuts does not, it seems, dim Postecoglou’s admiration for the 26-year-old.

He added: “Right now he’s a contracted player, he’s got a few months to go on his deal and he’s training awfully hard and if he keeps playing as he did on Tuesday night then I’ll keep selecting him.”

It does seem like they’re made for one another, the player who wants to play full-throttle football and the manager whose motto is “never take a backwards step”.

Here, we take a look at why even just one full season of Christie and Postecoglou could be a match made in Paradise.

Hard work, dedication and…

Let’s start with something a bit different for a second. Floyd Mayweather Jr, one of the greatest boxers to ever live, trained relentlessly for his biggest fights fuelled by the mantra “hard work, dedication”.

To me, there always seemed to be a fourth word that hung in the air, left unsaid but just as important as the first three: ability. You can have all the dedication in the world and put in all the hard work you can muster, but if you don’t have the requisite ability to pull off what you’re training for it’s only going to take you so far. To really stand out you need the whole combo.

That’s where we start to talk about Ryan Christie and Ange Postecoglou again.

First, it’s worthwhile to ponder what Postecoglou wants from his system and his players.

He wants high intensity. He wants the ball on the deck. He wants inverted full-backs. He wants quick and decisive link-up play in the final third. He wants to see perpetual motion from off-ball runners to help his defenders play out from the back. He wants to press out of possession – even when down to 10 men, as we saw in the first leg against FC Midtjylland. He wants, in short, high-risk, high-reward football.

And Christie is a high-risk, high-reward player.

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He has the hard work and the dedication to understand and, in some ways, personify what Postecoglou seems to want off the ball. But he also has the ability to do it on the ball as well.

Don’t underestimate that. It’s not as easy as it sounds – Celtic’s apparent struggles at full-back already tell you that simply trying hard and running around a lot won’t really work in Postecoglou’s system; you have to have the quality, too.

I expect Christopher Jullien to enjoy playing under his new boss when fit. The same goes for the likes of James Forrest, Callum McGregor will no doubt adapt and thrive with what looks like a bit more freedom in the middle as, I suspect, will David Turnbull.

But it’s Christie who could really shine. Whether out wide, as he was against West Ham on Saturday, or more central, Christie’s attributes just seem too suited to Celtic’s new style not to star.

So how does he fit the bill?

I’ve pulled together a few figures (thanks to our friends at StatsBomb) to try to reflect what Christie already brings to the team and why Postecoglou would love it if he stayed.

To highlight his suitability for ‘Ange-ball’ I’ve characterised what Christie’s role would be as a ‘high-intensity, ball-dominant, pressing midfielder’ and selected what I feel are some key measurements to gauge how well he fits that bill. I then compared Christie to some other Premiership players (minimum 900 minutes – or 10 matches – played) who StatsBomb suggested were of a similar disposition and the findings were intriguing.

The main areas to look out for in the graphic below are:

Deep progressions (for measuring how frequently he takes the ball into the final third – includes ball carrying and can include a pass)

xG Buildup (gives a sense of how much he is involved in link-up play which fashions chances)

Passing% (a general gauge of how consistent his passing accuracy is)

Turnovers (how often he directly gives up possession by miscontrolling the ball or from a failed dribble)

Pressures (how persistent he is in pressurising opponents)

Pressure regains (gives a sense of how effective that pressurising is)

Celtic Way: Source: StatsBombSource: StatsBomb

The only player in the sample who progressed the ball into the final third more than Christie last season was Turnbull. Likewise, Turnbull was fractionally more involved in terms of effective link-up play, albeit there is very little between the two there.

Where Christie comes to the fore – and seems especially suited to shine under Postecoglou – is surely in the competitive bite he carries along with his attacking intent. While he does give the ball away more than the likes of Turnbull (3.27 vs 1.90) Christie’s pressures (18.7) and pressure regains (3.31) stats are not just more impactful than Turnbull’s but comfortably the most impressive of the sample as a whole.

This tenacity certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed by Postecoglou in his first few weeks in the job.

The Celtic boss singled out Christie’s work ethic after the first-leg draw with FC Midtjylland in which Nir Bitton’s sending-off forced the Hoops to play one man down.

“He was outstanding on Tuesday night, particularly when we went down to 10 men," Postecoglou said of Christie. "As everyone knows when you go down to 10 men you need everyone to put in an extra shift and he did the work of two.

"He’s such an intelligent player but also one that’s willing to work hard for the team.”

And remember, those stats above are reflective of Christie’s playing style last season under Neil Lennon – his most maligned campaign to date – so you have to think that with Postecoglou’s fine-tuning it could get even more impressive.

The elephant in the room

Celtic midfielder Ryan Christie’s contract expires in January. It feels ludicrous to even write those words.

However, if we can just put aside the astounding short-sightedness of allowing a key player to sign a contract that expires midway through a season for a second, there are a few questions I’d pose to anyone who wants to see him cut loose before the summer transfer deadline.

If, as has been suggested, Christie does fancy a move away from Scotland at some point in his career, why does it need to be this window? Why does it need to be this season at all? If he does want to stay and Celtic can sort his contract out, won’t Christie starring in ‘Ange-ball’ only work out better for both parties further down the line?

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Sure, he could get injured. But he could get injured at any point between now and the deadline too. Yes, he’s 26 and that in modern football does not make him a youngster anymore but Stuart Armstrong moved south for the guts of £10million at a similar age. Even one full season more could make all the difference to the club and to Christie himself.

And anyway, there are worse ‘wantaway’ players to have about the place than Ryan Christie. Plenty of players have downed tools in a similar situation – but not Christie. His form may have dipped last term, yes, but his intensity? Nope, not Christie. He played a key role in getting Scotland to Euro 2020, his tears of joy uniting a nation, and then hardly featured at the tournament itself; some would’ve let that get to them. Not Christie.

Simply put, Ryan Christie has the hard work, dedication and ability to truly shine under Ange Postecoglou. Celtic should act now to ensure that comes to pass. If he wants to stay.