At 35 years of age, Kolo Toure joins the list of players who to the average football fan seems to have been around forever. Following his release by Liverpool, the Ivorian international linked-up once more with his former manager Brendan Rodgers, penning a one-year deal with Scottish champions Celtic.
The signing of Toure will undoubtedly be a sign of Rodgers seeking out much-needed experience to add to a Celtic defence that has been much maligned in recent years and continues to come under swathes of criticism. The two-time Premier League winner has vast experience in England’s top flight and the Champions League under his belt, and his manager will see his know-how as a way forward for Celtic’s often unreliable rear-guard.
The signing of the defender may not be the only defensive addition at Celtic Park this summer, as Rodgers bids to patch-up a defence which in the eyes of many Celtic fans is below the standard required to compete, particularly in Europe, which is where Rodgers will be most sternly judged, with European competition having conspired the demise of previous manager Ronnie Deila.
Despite his release from Anfield at the end of the 2015/16 season, the prominent role he played in the latter months of Liverpool’s campaign can provide much optimism for Celtic supporters that he will bring a lot to Parkhead. Rodgers initially recruited Toure at Liverpool with his experience in mind, and his role under Klopp including featuring in the final of the Europa League only serves as further encouragement. Toure’s professionalism and his capacity to look after himself renders him a strong and athletic defender, even as he enters the twilight years of his career, and in a squad containing many young players, a veteran and indeed a leader to ease the pressure on captain Scott Brown will only benefit Rodgers’ squad.
With 118 international caps and having been a part of Arsenal’s famous “Invincibles” of 2003/04, Toure also brings the big-game experience that has lacked in the Celtic ranks over the years. Since their days of regular appearances in the Champions League group stages waned, the experience of big European games and pressure scenarios has declined in their squad. Scott Brown is one of the few remaining to have played in such big games, and with Toure at the heart of the defence, Celtic now have a far more reliable option compared to the hapless Efe Ambrose who is prone to a blunder under pressure.
The veteran having flourished under Rodgers at Liverpool can also be expected to thrive in Scotland, where the calibre of his opponents in attack will inevitably be somewhat lesser than what he would face in the Premier League. Though it is European football in mind for Rodgers with this signing, and many Celtic supporters already view the Ivorian as a coup for the Bhoys.
After three-years at Liverpool which only yielded one season of Champions League football, Toure will be relishing the challenge of Europe’s premier club competition once again, and it is in these games where his experience will count the most and Celtic fans can expect to see him at his best to hopefully make a decisive difference, and propel the Glaswegian club back to previous heights on the continental stage. Toure knows that at Celtic he has a huge chance of adding further trophies to his already impressive CV, but the lure of Europe as well as the chance to work under Rodgers again were likely the two deciding factors in persuading the Ivorian to sign on the dotted line with the Hoops.
Helping with marshaling an erratic defence will be first on the task-list given to Toure by his manager, and although he may lack the pace he once had, his strength, ability in the air and his astute reading of the game will undoubtedly prove critical for Celtic and will indeed be a great asset in both their domestic league campaign, where they will face Rangers in the league for the first time in four years, and in Europe, as they bid to put the name of this famous Scottish giant back in among Europe’s elite. For the club and its many supporters, it is a step in the right direction, and they will be hoping evidence of his impact will begin to show sooner rather than later.
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