After emerging as one of the top defenders in the MLS this season, Mark McKenzie has talked about a potential move to Celtic in the future.
Celtic’s problems at the back have been well-documented. Christopher Jullien and Kristoffer Ajer never looked quite comfortable when playing against physical forwards. Shane Duffy’s addition was expected to take care of that problem but judging by tomorrow’s display against the Rangers, the backline remains far from convincing.
A lot of that might be down to the lack of continuity as well as the positions of the defenders though. Jullien only played along side Ajer and Duffy once before going down with injury and has not been seen since. Bitton and Abd Elhamed are also out for the moment. And one has to seriously question the decision to play Duffy in the middle of a back three.
Generally, that position is for somebody who is comfortable on the ball and has great passing ability. Even if he is not the best natural defender, the two beside have can make up for it. Think of David Luiz playing under Antonio Conte. As you might know, the Brazilian is not a great out-and-out defender. But he is a brilliant passer of the ball. And he shined in that role.
On the other hand, defending is Duffy’s bread and butter. He is not great with the ball at his feet. Thus, being in that position exposes his weaknesses and does not make full use of his strengths. Lennon must rectify this as soon as possible.
The club could certainly do with someone like Mark McKenzie at the moment though. The American has emerged as one of the top defenders in the league and continued to shine for Philadelphia Union.
He has been also linked with a move to Celtic for quite some time though but the move has not come to fruition yet. And speaking on MLS’ podcast Extra-Time about a move away in the future, the defender said:
"“Ultimately it’s about the personal experience, I think, so the only way for me to understand it fully is to be over there and to compete. Whichever club that is, I think it’s going to be the experience of a lifetime, but I have aspirations to play at the highest level, to play Champions League football. I think that’s as simple as it is.“Ultimately, a ball-playing league is a league that I want to be part of. I think that, again, that’s where you’re going to be tested and I can’t say what the future holds right now, but ultimately I do see myself playing against, again, these world-class 9s, these world-class 10s, these world-class 7s and 11s who are going to put me under pressure, both defensively and with the ball.“But having the capabilities to know that I can play and compete against them is something I’m looking forward to and it’s something that is pushing me day in and day out.”"
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Just to add some context to his comments, he was advised by a MLS pundit to directly move to one of the top European leagues and not Scotland. And while his comments are well measured so as not to hurt his future prospects of a move anywhere, he seems keen on moving somewhere that will offer him regular Champions League football.
Now, is McKenzie good enough right now to start for a top four Premier League or La Liga side? Most probably not. But you never know these days. Alphonso Davies went from being an unknown playing in Canada to probably the best left-back in world football in a short amount of time.
Even, the American wants to get regular game time, he should move to Celtic. But it is unlikely that the Hoops will have a free run at him like they would have when the links first emerged. Once again, we might have left it a bit too late.