How Matt O'Riley proved he was the jewel in Celtic's crown


Matt O’Riley may have missed out on the Player of the Year Award in Scotland. But recent performances such as Saturday’s derby day display and the midweek massacre of Kilmarnock confirm that Celtic would do well to keep the playmaker beyond the summer with several potential suitors interested. 


The 23-year-old was linked with the likes of Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan during the January window, where his form appeared to dip perhaps given the transfer talk, but now as we edge towards the end of the season the Dane will be in-demand once again. 


No other player has provided more assists in the Scottish Premiership this season (13) than the Fulham youth academy graduate. Having won every trophy in Scotland, he’s certainly played his part as the Hoops hunt for a domestic double of silverware. 


Only Lawrence Shankland of Hearts (23) has scored more Scottish Premiership goals than the former MK Dons midfielder (17). He's been directly involved in more goals (30) than any other Scottish Premiership player this season. Signed for a snip, Celtic will look to make plenty profit on the Hounslow-born playmaker who dropped a perfect WhoScored 10 rating at Rugby Park in midweek. 


His low drive into the box was smashed home by Adam Idah after just five minutes, which ultimately got the title party started in Ayrshire. Two goals from Daizen Maeda and James Forrest had the Hoops heading into the break three goals to the good. 



But in the second half, O’Riley came into his own as he thundered home the fourth from the edge of the Kilmarnock box. And after Killie tried to play out from the back, a Nicholas Kühn cutback was passed into the corner by the Denmark international with ease. 


His seven key passes was the most on the park in midweek by a considerable distance, and his 74 touches were the most of any Celtic star middle to front, the key cog in the title winning machine. 


But with the Hoops playing guaranteed Champions League football next season, that could be the primary factor that entices him to stay in Glasgow as it appears he has outgrown the Scottish Premiership by lighting it up week-to-week. 


Both of his first choice midfield partners, Reo Hatate and club captain Callum McGregor, have spent some time on the sidelines through injury. Whereas O’Riley hasn’t been used in just one Scottish Premiership game this season, that a 3-0 win in Dingwall against Ross County in November. 


But it could be argued that it is in the big games where Celtic’s number 33 really clicks into gear. He was the player of the match in the first Glasgow derby of the season against Rangers, providing Kyogo Furuhashi with the winning goal as Celtic silenced Ibrox 1-0 in September. 


He provides big moments and goals himself, such as the 97th minute winner at Fir Park as Motherwell pegged the Hoops back with what appeared to be a 95th minute equaliser.  


He set the Bhoys on their way to their most convincing away day display of the season, opening the scoring as they hammered Hearts at Tynecastle 4-1 a few weeks after that. 


His assist for Kyogo Furuhashi’s thunderbolt, once again, proved the difference on derby day in December as Rangers lost 2-1 at Parkhead in the festive fixture.  


And as Celtic demolished Dundee 7-1 at the end of February, O’Riley provided Cameron Carter-Vickers with the opening goal before netting one himself and helping Daizen Maeda add his name onto the scoresheet. 


But recent displays against runners-up Rangers and third-placed Hearts have come at exactly the right time, showcasing that the Bhoys mean business. He provided Kyogo once again before slotting away a penalty as they dealt the Jambos revenge at Celtic Park. 


And after the audacity of scoring a Panenka penalty at Ibrox in the six-goal thriller last month, he fired Celtic in front in the game, which unofficially won the Scottish Premiership last weekend against the Gers. 


After a superb derby day display, O’Riley scooped a trio of club awards. Celtic’s Young Player of the Year, Men’s Players’ Player of the Year and Men’s Player of the Year turns up when it matters most and could potentially earn Celtic a record-breaking sale.

How Matt O'Riley proved he was the jewel in Celtic's crown