THE question of just how Celtic would cope with the loss of three of their most influential players has been answered emphatically.
Kelvin Wilson, Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper formed the spine of last season's side that coasted to the championship and scrapped to the last 16 of the Champions League. They have been replaced by three individuals who have all been pivotal in Celtic again dining at European football's top table and winning the domestic title with even greater ease.
Replacement Virgil van Dijk
Mikael Lustig and Charlie Mulgrew were both considered to fill the void left by Wilson, while serious injury curtailed Steven Mouyokolo's season before it had even got going. Instead it fell to Virgil van Dijk to step up to the mark. And how. If the Dutchman was a relative unknown in this country when he was procured from Groningen for a fee in the region of £2.5m, then he has a greater profile now. Robust, quick, technically-strong, and mobile, it remains a mystery why Celtic faced next to no competition for his signature. A contender for the Player of the Year awards, holding on to the 22 year-old will be Celtic's biggest challenge this summer.
Player out Victor Wanyama
Replacement Charlie Mulgrew
There was a near inevitability about Victor Wanyama's move to England, the only outstanding issue was just where exactly he would land and how much Celtic would recoup for their loss. Southampton and £12m would prove the answers. A direct replacement was signed in the form of Nir Biton, and others like Biram Kayal had their chance, but instead it is Charlie Mulgrew who has plugged the gap. Mulgrew is not as powerful or commanding as Wanyama, but he has proved just as capable at turning over possession and setting up Celtic attacks.
Player out Gary Hooper
Replacement Kris Commons
Celtic have failed to find a striker capable of replacing the 31 goals Gary Hooper brought to the team last year. An attacking midfielder has done the job instead. In hipster-speak, Kris Commons is the No.10 who has found himself operating as a No.9. With new signings Amido Balde and Teemu Pukki failing to make an impact, Anthony Stokes inconsistent, and Georgios Samaras struggling, it has been Commons who has scored the goals that have taken Celtic to the title. A return of 26 before last night's game is remarkable, a haul that includes two hat tricks. Scotland's loss is almost certainly Celtic's gain.