Odds were stacked against Arzani, says Celtic great McDonald

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Daniel Arzani “never really stood a chance” at Celtic, according to ex-Hoops goal machine Scott McDonald.

Urging the 21-year-old Socceroo to head to the continent where his “technical ability will be better appreciated”, McDonald - now with Brisbane Roar - believes the gifted attacker didn’t fit the mould of a typical Neil Lennon player and faced insurmountable hurdles at Celtic Park after the ACL injury which felled him on debut in October 2018.

McDonald, who scored 59 goals in 117 goals for the Scottish Premiership champions, is closely aligned with Celtic’s academy coach Stephen McManus, the man who closely monitored Arzani during his long rehabilitation period in Glasgow.

“As soon as he got injured there was just no pathway for him there,” said McDonald. “There were just two many good players ahead of him.

“He could have been outrageous at training but Neil Lennon already had his tried, tested and trusted players.

“The way things were there during the season with Rangers pushing, it was no time to experiment and Daniel wasn’t going to get the opportunity.

“Once he’d suffered that injury he never really stood too much of a chance (of breaking through). It was just unfortunate.”

With Arzani having now parted company with the Bhoys after two injury-scarred seasons on loan from Manchester City, McDonald said that his off-the-cuff, instinctive style wasn’t in keeping with Lennon’s more rigid scriptures.

“Neil Lennon is a bit different to (predecessor) Brendan Rodgers,” he added.

“He likes sturdy, grinding types of players rather than the flair. That’s just his persona. You have to give him both - not just flair alone.

“Another problem for Daniel is that Lennon hasn’t been playing with out-and-out wingers lately, or with a number 10, so where was he going to play?”

Arzani made just two appearances off the bench for Celtic and is at a career crossroads.

Speaking with The World Game last month, he pointed to the Netherlands as a potential destination.

“He has to go somewhere in Europe where his technical ability is appreciated and he’s going to get more opportunity to become a man,” stressed McDonald.

“If that’s a lesser league then fine - if he comes back to Australia now he will be seen as though he’s never going to make it there.

“He’s one that the City Football Group need to look at putting in a foreign space rather than a British one.

“If you’re looking at sending him to the Championship right now, for instance, I think you’re throwing him to the wolves.

”Holland or Belgium might suit him pretty well ... maybe that’s the next step for him.

“He’s fully fit now which is good and he just needs game time. The kid hasn’t really played any first team football since the 2018 World Cup.

“He’s obviously had bad luck with his knee injury but that’s water under the bridge now.

“He still has time - he’s only 21. But there’s no better place than on the pitch in games to problem solve and learn.

“That’s where he needs to be. You can’t do that on the training ground. You have to be involved in match situations where you’ve got to deliver the right answers to the puzzles.”

The feedback McDonald received from McManus from Celtic’s Lennoxtown training base was that Arzani was “ultra professional and very impressive” within the reserves set-up.

“He needs to go and find himself now,” added McDonald. “It would have been pointless to stay at Celtic and not play.

“In football you sometimes learn more from the disappointments than the good things and he’ll be stronger for the experience.”