BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
Former Celtic star Tosh McKinlay is adamant the Hoops have secured a ready-made replacement for Virgil van Dijk in Croatian kid Jozo Simunovic.
McKinlay insists he has pored over footage of the 21-year-old and has backed him to be a revelation at Parkhead, describing the centre-half as “Rolls-Royce material”.
Simunovic arrived in Glasgow in a £5.5 million deal from Dinamo Zagreb on deadline day, somewhat cushioning the blow of losing Virgil van Dijk to Southampton.
And McKinlay has absolutely no doubt the Croatia under-21 internationalist will hit the ground running.
He lauded: “Virgil wanted to go elsewhere and that’s what happened, but with Jozo Simunovic coming in there is plenty at the club.
“Here is a guy who has already played over 100 times for Dinamo Zagreb, has captained Croatia’s under-21s and already has great pedigree.
“I have seen a lot of footage of him, he’s a fantastic footballer. So it will be seamless with him coming in and Van Dijk going.
“Certainly, from what I have seen, he can come in and do a fantastic job for Celtic. He is Rolls Royce material and he can certainly make a big impact in the Scottish game.”
While Celtic snapped up Simunovic, it is thought they failed in several bids to secure striking reinforcements before the closure of the transfer window.
Scotland forward Steven Fletcher, Swansea star Michu and out-of-favour Leicester front-man Andrej Kramaric were among the names linked with the Hoops.
Now the Hoops face their domestic and European challenges ahead with only Leigh Griffiths, Nadir Ciftci and Anthony Stokes as attacking options.
Nevertheless, McKinlay believes they have the fire-power to excel at home and abroad.
He added: “I’m looking at the whole squad and I think it is fantastic.
“I’m more than confident that Nadir Ciftci will score goals for Celtic. I’ve always been an admirer of Leigh Griffiths too.
“He has a great scoring record and he has settled in at Celtic well. I’m sure he will go on to do well.”
McKinlay was speaking as he prepares to don his own boots again, as part of a Celtic Legends XI which will face their Dunfermline counterparts at East End Park on Sunday afternoon.
The charity match, which kicks off at 2 p.m., is in honour of Jock Stein and marks the 30th anniversary of his passing.
McKinlay added: “It will be a great occasion. He put Celtic firmly on the map, but this is where he started. He won the Scottish Cup with Dunfermline and it will be a great day.”