Celtic kicked off their charge for a record breaking 10 Scottish Premiership titles in a row by dismantling Hamilton 5-1 at home.
French forward Odsonne Edouard picked up where he left off last season by netting a hat-trick, and picking up the man of the match award after another impressive display.
The 22 year old is subject to Premier League interest, with Arsenal the latest club to be linked to the striker, seeing him as an ideal replacement for Aubameyang should the Gabonese international choose to leave the Gunners this summer.
Celtic are still confident of hanging on to Edouard, with their hopes of becoming the first Scottish side to win 10 league titles in a row, largely hinging on the forward staying at Celtic Park.
This is because Edouard has become such a pivotal figure for Celtic since first arriving at the club on loan in 2017 from PSG.
A relatively unknown entity at the time, aged just 19, Edouard had risen through the ranks at PSG but had failed to break into the first team at the Parc de Princes.
This was through no fault of his own but rather the star studded line up at PSG blocking his path to the starting eleven.
He first showcased his evident talent on a big stage in 2015, when he was named player of the tournament and was top goalscorer with 8 goals as France won the U17 European Championships.
After a failed loan spell at Toulouse the season after, the Frenchman swapped Paris for Glasgow, agreeing a season long loan switch to Brendan Rodgers’ side with an option to buy at the end of it.
A goal on his debut against Hamilton would set the tone for Edouard’s time on Glasgow’s East End to date. He made 29 appearances that season, netting 11 goals and providing 4 assists, a decent return for his first full season in senior men’s football.
The highlight of his and many Celtic fans’ campaign was undoubtedly his winner at Ibrox in March at the Old Firm game, which was a glimpse of what was to come from the Frenchman.
Celtic had come from behind twice in the game before being reduced to 10 men in the second half. With 69 minutes on the clock Eduoard received the the ball on the left hand side. He darted into the area before dropping his shoulder and cutting inside, curling an effort into the far corner to send the travelling Celtic faithful into hysterics.
A month later he would bag a brace against the same opposition, to really endear himself to Hoops fans as Celtic romped to a double treble.
With countryman Moussa Dembele departing in the summer of 2018 to Lyon for a fee of £20 million, Celtic were able to break their transfer record to bring ‘French Eddy’ (as he is fondly known by Celtic fans) back to Celtic Park on a permanent deal.
The deal was reportedly worth £9 million, a sum which Celtic could quadruple now if they were willing to cash in on Edouard, given his performances over the past two seasons.
With Dembele moving on, the Frenchman was now Celtic’s main frontman, with Rodgers, and his successor Neil Lennon opting to play with just a sole striker in either a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 formation.
Edouard carried that burden superbly well, registering 22 goals and 8 assists in all competitions as Celtic secured a monumental ‘treble treble.’
He seems like a manager’s dream for a striker. He is strong and his hold up play is great, he can regularly be seen holding off a defender before bringing others into play and continuing his run into the box to get on the end of the cross.
He has an explosive turn of pace, is good at dribbling and in one v one situations and has the eye for a killer pass.
His finishing is first class, he is comfortable on either foot and his goal compilations involve various types of finishes, whether that be long range screamers, curling efforts, tap ins or deft side foot placements into the far corner, Edouard has it all in his locker.
Although in some games he may fend off scraps and be uninvolved in build up play, he comes alive in and around the penalty area. If he is presented with just one opportunity, odds he will pounce.
He showed all these admirable attributes last campaign in what was his best season in green to date. Edouard found the back of the net 27 times and provided a further 19 assists in all competitions.
With the SPL taking the decision to curtail the league with 8 games remaining it is frightening to think how many more goals Edouard could have netted, especially considering his form since the turn of the year.
Lennon’s decision to switch to a 3-5-2 formation after the winter break as well as the up turn in form of full back Greg Taylor all benefitted Edouard tremendously.
Firstly, he struck up a great partnership with fellow frontman Leigh Griffiths. After leading the line on his own for much of the season, having another player around him helped Edouard to become more involved in the game and he linked up really well with Griffiths for a number of his own goals and others scored by the Hoops.
Manager Neil Lennon was full of praise for the duo in February telling Celtic TV:
“He (Edouard) is a mercurial talent. If you look at both his goals at the weekend they are very difficult and he makes them look easy.
“His movement off the ball, I think it helps sometimes having a body around him, him and Griff, particularly at Kilmarnock, the two of them linked up brilliantly. His all-round game is improving all the time.”
Secondly, the three at the back allowed Lennon to deploy the more attack minded full backs Taylor and Jeremie Frimpong further up the pitch, which worked to devastating effect for the champions, and in particular Edouard.
The Frenchman thrives off crosses into the box, and the two full backs are experts at delivering pinpoint balls into dangerous areas.
Given his considerable height he is good in the air but Edouard is also incredibly quick and intelligent. His movement is incredible. He often starts at the edge of the area and makes darting runs across the defenders before arriving on the scene just in time to latch onto the ball and score.
Celtic won nine of their next 10 games after the tactical tweak with Edouard getting on the scoresheet nine times and setting up four other goals, as Celtic landed an unprecedented quadruple treble and Edouard scooped the club’s
Celtic reverted to a back four for their opening game of the 20/21 season, with Edouard again the sole striker, but the outcome was the same, a roaring success as the Frenchman was too hot to handle for the Accies.
Celtic have slapped a £40 million price tag on Eduaord’s head to fend off interest, as they are hell bent on keeping the striker for at least another year, with boss Lennon telling reporters after the game at the weekend:
“We don’t want him to go anywhere!”
Given that the full extent of financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic on clubs have yet to been revealed, it is a hefty price to pay and a huge gamble to take for a Premier League club, especially one like Crystal Palace who are rumoured to be interested, given that that could amount to nearly all their transfer budget.
Edouard will feel indebted to Celtic for giving him his break in football, and he seems settled in Glasgow. He has a great relationship with the fans, who adore him, he is a well liked member of the squad and has embraced the ethos of the club very well, understanding the history and what it means to play for Celtic.
It is therefore difficult to see him leaving this summer with the allure of the opportunity to write his name into Celtic and Scottish folklore looming very large in the background. It will take a huge offer to prise Celtic’s jewel from their all conquering crown.
If a lucky club manages to do so they may have unearthed another gem from Scotland, and Edouard will hope to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Andy Robertson and Virgil Van Dijk before him, fellow exports who have made it to the pinnacle of world football.