Monday, August 16, 2010
McGeady could open the floodgates
He's probably oblivious to it all, but Aiden McGeady might just be about to spark another Russian revolution.
McGeady's £9.5 million move to Spartak Moscow from Celtic might have raised more than a few eyebrows among Scotland's football fraternity but others could soon follow his lead.
There's little doubt the transfer will bolster the Republic of Ireland international's bank balance, but some pundits feel he should have held out for the chance to grace the English Premier League. However, the switch certainly hasn't surprised Garry O'Connor, who was one of the first to blaze a trail to the former Soviet state when he joined Lokomotiv Moscow in 2006.
O'Connor swapped Edinburgh's Princes Street for Red Square when he left Hibs in a deal worth £1.5 million. The striker only lasted a little over 16 months when he returned to Britain to join Birmingham City for £2.7 million which represented a tidy profit for Lokomotiv. But he's convinced his spell in Russia helped to mould him into a more complete player and sees others following McGeady's path.
''I bumped into Aiden in the summer and we spoke about Russia and how I found it,'' said O'Connor. ''Maybe he achieved everything he could at Celtic and it's maybe the right time for him to make a change. It's a high standard and Spartak go straight into the Champions League. There are a lot of top players there and he can learn a new language, a different culture and experience Russia. It will be great for him.''
And one specialist football agent reckons SPL players will soon be the subject of more interest from other cash rich Russian clubs. Rudi Vata, who served Celtic during his playing career, is considered an expert in the Eastern European market and was involved in both the O'Connor and McGeady deals.
Vata believes the Scottish market offers value for money with Russian teams willing to invest in younger players with talent who they can nurture then sell on for bigger transfer fees in the future.
"I know the mentality of the Russians; I have a lot of contacts over there,'' said Vata. "They rarely buy star players over 25 or 26. They look to bring players in who are around 25 or younger and then sell them on. They know what they are doing. They know they will get the fee back in the long run.''
And there's a new wealth of young Scottish talent rising through the ranks at the majority of the top flight clubs just waiting for a big break. That's mainly due to the fact that clubs north of the border are more than most feeling the pinch as the credit crunch continues to bite.
The positive knock-on effect means managers are now forced to place their faith in their home grown players probably earlier than they'd like. Aberdeen are one such case in point with teens like Fraser Fyvie and Peter Pawlett both considered established first-team players well ahead of schedule.
It's certainly something of a role reversal for the Russian clubs to plunder the Scottish market as previously the top talents in Eastern Europe tended to head for Britain. Think Andrei Kanchelskis who made the switch from Shakhtar Donetsk to Manchester United for £650,000 in 1991, the same year as the Iron Curtain fell.
Others like Andriy Shevchenko and Serhiy Rebrov later followed him to England in huge transfer deals while many more have sought refuge in the United Kingdom following the landmark Bosman Ruling of 1995. It'll make for interesting viewing to see if McGeady can live up to the huge weight of expectation that now lies on his slim shoulders following the hefty transfer fee.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon will understandably be sad to lose the 24-year-old, who he once described as his best player, but will be comforted by the small consolation of a huge transfer kitty. That should trigger the arrivals of some new faces with the Bhoys boss in the market for a new goalkeeper, a left-back and a centre back.
The Hoops have already been linked with an ambitious move to take Craig Bellamy on loan from Manchester City in a deal that would mirror Robbie Keane's brief stint in Glasgow last season. However, Lennon already has Shaun Maloney, Niall McGinn and Paddy McCourt at his disposal with all three natural successors to McGeady's position.
It's unlikely Celtic will spend big on a direct replacement for the Irishman who could be joined in Russia by more graduates from the Scottish in the future.