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McGinn: the surging Saint catching Celtic’s eye

A closer look at Hibernian midfielder John McGinn, who has been linked with Celtic

Matt Gault

Despite having won his second consecutive domestic treble with Celtic, Brendan Rodgers can be excused for sweating over the summer.

Several of the Hoops’ first-team are away on World Cup duty, including Mikael Lustig (Sweden), Dedryck Boyata (Belgium) and Tom Rogic (Australia).

With Champions League qualifiers looming in August, Rodgers can only hope that the Celtic contingent at the World Cup goes through the tournament unscathed.

Rodgers was dealt a blow at the end of the 2017/18 season as Patrick Roberts returned to parent club Manchester City following a successful two-and-a-half-year loan spell in Glasgow.

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With Rodgers keen to make an impression on the Champions League while tightening Celtic’s grip on the Scottish Premiership title, the Northern Irish coach is expected to oversee a busy summer of comings and goings.

One of the many players to find themselves subject of Celtic transfer rumours is Hibernian midfielder, John McGinn.

The Hibernian midfielder caught the eye last season for Neil Lennon’s side and has attracted interest from Rangers and Leeds United as well as Celtic. Our friends at Football Whispers have taken a closer look at the player to see what he would offer Rodgers in midfield.

Who is he?

McGinn, 23, began his career at St Mirren having graduated from the club’s academy in 2012. His two brothers, Stephen and Paul, have both played for the Buddies too.

He broke through during the 2012/13 campaign and helped the Saints clinch the Scottish League Cup in March 2013.

A regular starter over the next two seasons, McGinn’s St Mirren career ended in bizarre circumstances. During a training session at the club’s Ralston Training Complex in April 2015, McGinn was spiked in his thigh by a spear thrown by club captain Steven Thompson.

Having required treatment in hospital, McGinn subsequently instigated legal action against the Buddies before joining Hibernian that summer in a four-year deal.

McGinn immediately slotted into Alan Stubbs’ first-team at Easter Road, making 52 appearances and scoring five goals as Hibs clinched the Scottish Cup with a pulsating 3-2 win over Rangers to give the club its first silverware in the competition in 114 years.

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McGinn played all 90 minutes in the Hampden Park showpiece and caught the eye as a driving force in midfield.

The following season, he helped Hibs win promotion to the Scottish Premiership in Lennon’s first season in charge. A Nottingham Forest target in the summer of 2017, the midfielder stayed and once again proved influential as Hibs finished fourth in their first season back.

McGinn’s consistency earned him a PFA Scotland Players’ Player of the Year Award nomination.

What would he bring to Celtic?

Celtic’s reported interest in McGinn runs deeper than the fact that his grandfather, Jack McGinn, was the club’s chairman in the 1980s and 90s.

No, the Celtic links are a natural consequence of McGinn’s progression through Scottish football. The 23-year-old is a dynamic, driving presence in midfield, a box-to-box operator whose qualities were thrillingly demonstrated in Hibs’ 2-1 win over Celtic in April.

McGinn ran himself into the ground, requiring treatment for cramp towards the end of the game.

He almost certainly wanted to impress Rodgers, who offered a positive assessment of McGinn after watching him shine in Hibs’ Edinburgh derby win over Hearts in February, praising his industry, tackling and tactical nous.

They are indeed impressive; McGinn averaged 4.08 interceptions and 6.75 successful dribbles per game in the league last season, offering an insight into his tenacity and enterprise in the middle.

McGinn is also an incisive passer, with 1.76 through balls per game, and has a keen eye for goal, with many of his strikes coming from picking up possession in midfield and cutting loose from distance. He scored twice in the 2-2 draw with Celtic at Parkhead in September, both unerring efforts from outside the box.

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His last league goal, against Rangers in February, was McGinn in a nutshell. Winning possession in the centre circle he proceeded to drive through the Gers midfield before unleashing a fiercely-struck left-footed drive into the far corner.

With a capacity for such surging runs, it’s no wonder he’s in high demand. He’s a leader, too, having captained the Scotland Under-21 side before breaking into the senior set-up.

Hoops already heaving in midfield

At 23, McGinn has his best years ahead of him and has demonstrated that he’s continuing to improve, so there is strong evidence to suggest he could one day flourish in Celtic’s midfield.

However, for that to happen next season, there would have to be one or two exits from Celtic Park. Some have suggested that McGinn could be a long-term replacement for Scott Brown – 33 in June – but he is a different player, with the Hibs man being more attack-minded than the Hoops captain.

Rodgers also has Rogic, Callum McGregor, Olivier Ntcham and Stuart Armstrong at his disposal, so it’s difficult to see how McGinn would start in Scottish football’s strongest midfield.

With one year left on his Hibs contract, McGinn’s departure from Easter Road is looking inevitable. With interest from England, it will be interesting if Celtic make a move to keep one of Scotland’s bright young talents from moving south.

By Matt Gault – follow Matt and the rest of the team at Football Whispers on Twitter @FB_Whispers

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