Before he joined Celtic, I knew very little about Stuart Armstrong other than his name. In fact I knew as much about him as I did Gary Mackay-Steven.
Both players joined Celtic in the same January transfer window from Dundee United. Although I’d been told Armstrong was the better player it was Mackay-Steven who made the better impact for Celtic in my eyes.
Statistically Mackay-Steven scored 4 goals in 15 games in that half season. In the same period, Armstrong netted 2 goals in 17 appearances including one against Inter Milan.
It became clear to many a Celtic supporter that Armstrong was not being deployed correctly. Left-footed he may be, but left-winger he was not.
He was wasted out wide and deserved to be played central midfield. He would need to wait a year-and-a-half for that to come to fruition.
When Brendan Rodgers arrived in June 2016 he wasted no time in amending that. It was a glaring error that had to be made right.
Armstrong took the opportunity with both hands and delivered a memorable season in the heart of the Celtic midfield alongside captain Scott Brown. 17 goals in 47 appearances is the best return from the midfield last season bettering Tom Rogić’s form of the last two seasons.
That sort of statistic has put Armstrong in a strong position to negotiate his future. And that’s where club and players agent are at a crossroads.
With a year left on his contract Celtic have so far been unable to extend that. The terms of any such deal you would expect to be better than the ones he is currently on.
Having just played his best season of football it’s clear that his agent playing hardball. The longer these things drag on the more speculation you get and that is exactly where we are now.
Rumours of interested clubs down south plague the tabloids daily. And to be fair he could get a game with most clubs and earn a bigger salary.
At Celtic he could go on to be a real mainstay of future sides though. Possibly even a captain at some point.
He’s only 25 years old and if he did want to play south of the border there is plenty of time to do so. Right now there is more to be done at Celtic especially in Europe.
I’m certain he’ll want to be part of that as he is unlikely to get it unless he got a big club down south. I understand the bright lights of the English Premier League, but he has another decade left in the game.
Beyond football he has both the intelligence and education to begin a new career after his playing days. That’s why I don’t think he is overly focussed on the money.
His agent is doing the talking. Mid-to-lower placed teams Premier League are the benchmark in terms of salaries he could get but a bigger move is very unlikely.
So at best his agent will be putting the squeeze on Celtic. I don’t think Celtic will offer him his best deal now though maybe further down the line.
That’s probably a coupe of years away if he stays. I do expect they’d offer him a much better deal than the one he is currently on though.
At the end of the day he is a talented and valued player. The club would want to see a repeat season from him at the very least in ordee to earn the big bucks.
Armstrong is a rare breed in the Scottish game. Celtic will want to retain that, but I don’t think they will be held to ransom either.