Matt O'Riley must show Celtic transfer patience by resisting Southampton interest

Matt O'Riley starred for Celtic in the Champions League
-Credit: (Image: SNS Group)

Will he stay or will he go? That's the big question surrounding Matt O'Riley's future this summer.

The Celtic star has attracted major interest across Europe after a standout season at Parkhead. And it's believed Southampton are ready to test Celts' resolve by tabling a £20million-plus offer in the coming weeks. On paper, that's a lot of money for a Scottish club. But when you consider Newcastle United have just banked a staggering £35m by selling Elliot Anderson to Nottingham Forest, Saints' bid should be immediately booted into touch.

The Hoops raked in a record-breaking £25m from Kieran Tierney's sale to Arsenal five years ago and the Double-winners should absolutely demand a fee that eclipses that - if they decide to do business. Most punters expect O'Riley to move on after a trophy-laden two-and-a-half years in Glasgow and he'd go with the green-and-white faithful's blessing.

But that doesn't mean the Denmark international should jump at the first opportunity. You just have to look at last summer. Leeds United came to the table with a £10m bid in the final days of the transfer window, only for Brendan Rodgers to block the move. Had the Northern Irishman not stepped in, Michael Nicholson may well have been tempted to cash in on a player signed for a bargain £1.5m from MK Dons in January 2022.

It was a sliding doors moment as less than six months later, Spanish giants Atletico Madrid came knocking. Instead of making a mediocre move to the Championship, O'Riley caught Diego Simeone's eye on the biggest stage of all by producing a man of the match display in October's 2-2 Champions League thriller at Celtic Park. But Celtic couldn't afford to sell at any price as a resurgent Rangers threatened their title defence and a guaranteed £40m Champions League jackpot.

While other players might have kicked up a fuss at being denied a dream move to one of football's heavyweights, O'Riley demonstrated the genuine love and respect he has for the club by accepting his fate. There were no transfer requests, petty social media posts or public fall-outs. His conduct was exemplary and whatever happens this summer, that shouldn't be forgotten. Had O'Riley thrown his toys out of the pram, the title and Scottish Cup could've been sitting in a certain trophy cabinet across the city. Instead, he put the team first by knuckling down to inspire Celtic to even more silverware.

With that in mind, it might be in O'Riley's best interests to show even more patience if Saints are granted permission to speak with him. Would a move to St Mary's really represent a step up for O'Riley when the likes of Atletico and Inter Milan are sniffing around? Given Russell Martin's side have just been promoted, there's no guarantee that they'll still be a Premier League side this time next year.

Yes, he'd land a major wage hike that would probably set him up for life. However, at the age of 23, O'Riley still has plenty of years ahead of him to earn life-changing contracts. He clearly has a team of advisors and representatives who have his best interests at heart and when you consider the calibre of clubs who are tracking him, Southampton aren't exactly the most attractive proposition.

Saints fans may well point to the successes of ex-Celtic stars Virgil van Dijk, Victor Wanyama, Fraser Forster and Stuart Armstrong but that was during a period when the club were regularly competing at the top half of the table. This is a completely different team that finished fourth in the Championship last season and had to rely on the play-offs to secure promotion at the first time of asking. Is it really worth swapping Champions League football and title battles for a relegation scrap?

It must be said that O'Riley has shown no desire to leave Parkhead. This is a player who has fallen in love with the club and appreciates every minute of his time here. However, the reality is he will eventually become the latest successful product of Celtic's transfer model which is to buy low, develop and then sell high. The sky is the limit for O'Riley and if the classy midfielder is to be tempted away this summer, Madrid or Milan should be in his sights - not the south coast of England.