THE GREAT Celtic winter recruitment drive is showing no sign of abating as new CEO Michael Nicholson and manager Ange Postecoglou continue to tool up for the second half of the season and beyond.

While Postecoglou has made the most of his Japanese connections with the signatures of Reo Hatate, Yosuke Ideguchi and Daizen Maeda, the latest potential Hoops conscript is likely from another area of the manager's CV: Australia, and midfielder Riley McGree.

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The Charlotte FC 23-year-old has spent the past year or so on loan at Birmingham City, while Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest were reportedly interested in him too after an impressive loan spell at their fellow Championship side.

What piqued these teams' interest? What can McGree's career so far tell us about his future potential? And what about those who have dealt with him before, what do they say?

Here, The Celtic Way takes a closer look at the Australia international...

Who is Riley McGree?

Highly-rated within Australian football as a teenager at Adelaide United, Postecoglou called him up for the national squad in March 2017 when he was 18 and with just 700 minutes of senior football under his belt. It was reported as a shock at the time by ABC News, although McGree did not actually see any game-time.

Belgian Pro League side Club Brugge took him to Europe in July that year, although his time with the club was ultimately mostly spent back in his homeland on loan to Newcastle Jets (where he scored a Puskas Award contender) and Melbourne City.

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A return to Adelaide United brought an FFA Cup triumph as well as the NAB young footballer of the year award and a team of the season nod.

His success with United led to Charlotte FC recruiting him - although, with the signing coming well in advance of their inaugural MLS season, he was loaned to Birmingham City in the English Championship from October 2020 until the end of the following year.

What do the stats tell us?

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McGree offers plenty of energy and bite in the central areas with good work-rate married to decent technical qualities ensuring his offensive game is based on scoring and creating.

An able dribbler as well as a fairly accurate shooter, he consistently outperforms his xG - over the past five years he has almost five more goals than 'expected' - while his assist rate is around level. 

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Crucially, McGree offers plenty off the ball too. The 23-year-old favours a high-intensity approach and wins almost 10 duels per 90 minutes with comparatively impressive numbers in interceptions and opposition half recoveries into the bargain.

READ MORE: How Kyogo Furuhashi became Scottish football's leading man in less than six months

Add his mix of technical and tenacious attributes to the fact he is a lefty, can fill a role on the wing if required and likes a set-piece and it becomes clear why plenty have already drawn comparisons between him and ex-Celt Ryan Christie. Here's how some of their numbers compare:

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Christie, of course, is long since departed and although his absence has been felt there are now others vying for a regular spot as an 8 or 10 in Celtic's midfield. Here's how McGree compares to some of them:

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The numbers are favourable (even the weaker ones) and especially so given they are from actoss five-plus-year sample size and not a one-off season.

That said, replicating or improving upon these sorts of numbers in the SPFL Premiership and, perhaps more importantly, in European competition would be the next big step for the Australian.

Where does he fit in?

A player with McGree's traits continues Celtic's significant strengthening of the midfield area in this window.

Reo Hatate carries a similar profile – and indeed has also been posited as a Christie-type player – while Yosuke Ideguchi has been added into the running for a spot recently too. The former's arrival, in particular, likely makes a starting berth more difficult to nail down for McGree.

Elsewhere, David Turnbull might be injured just now but there is also Tom Rogic to contend with for a role as a hybrid 8 or as a 10 while we should not forget Nir Bitton’s resurgence either as the quest for significant game-time alongside captain Callum McGregor gets ultra-competitive over the second half of the season.

But given the stresses and strains of fighting for glory on three fronts, variety could well be the spice of life for Postecoglou going forward; add McGree to the other recent January recruits and suddenly that Celtic midfield is awash with mobile, energetic options again.

What they said...

“We haven’t had in the A-League too many teenagers even getting a run these days. I thought he looked exciting from the moment he broke into the team. I really like the way he’s adjusted to playing in an unfamiliar position against some pretty good opponents. He’s played [AFC] Champions League and A-League. He’s just someone I want to have a look at.” Ange Postecoglou in March 2017, after calling up McGree to the national side aged 18.

"He has the ability to link the midfield to the final third, he’s got a good through ball, a final cross and he’s got a shot. Those are great qualities for a young player." Australia assistant manager Rene Meulensteen to

“There’s a young lad at Birmingham at the moment called Riley McGree who’s a really talented player. I think he’ll be a top player.” former Celtic midfielder and Australia international Jackson Irvine to Open Goal.

“We are building our team with young talent that matches the aggressive style of play, and intensity in the game, that our fans will love to watch. Riley is a perfect fit for us.” - Charlotte FC sporting director Zoran Krneta to the club website on why they recruited McGree in the first place.