South American football reporter gives lowdown on Alexandro Bernabei as fans told what to expect from left-back

Tim Vickery warned Hoops fans it will take the 21-year-old time to adjust to the physicality of Scottish football.
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Celtic fans can except to see “terrific pace” and “an eye for goal” from new left-back Alexandro Bernabei, according to well-respected South American football correspondent Tim Vickery.

The Argentina youth international joined the Parkhead club on a five-year-deal earlier this week after leaving Primeira Liga side Lanus in his homeland.

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The 21-year-old, who scored five goals in 88 appearances for his former club, will become the first Argentine player to wear the Hoops jersey.

Bernabei will compete with Greg Taylor for a starting position in Ange Postecoglou’s backline next season but Vickery has warned supporters to give their new recruit time to adjust to the Scottish game.

Speaking to BBC Sport Scotland, he said: “Celtic are getting a player who I like very much. He doesn’t have a great deal behind him, in part because of the pandemic in Argentine football.

“He just got into the team there at Lanus and then Argentine football shut down for a considerable time during 2020, so he doesn’t have that much experience behind him.

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“But what have we seen so far? What virtues does he bring to Ange Postecoglou’s side? Quick, quick little left-back.

“He’s not going to defend like Danny McGrain, that’s not his game. I don’t think he’s a disaster at defending but he’s not McGrain.

Danny McGrain spent two seasons on loan at Maryhill Juniors in the 1960s. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)Danny McGrain spent two seasons on loan at Maryhill Juniors in the 1960s. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Danny McGrain spent two seasons on loan at Maryhill Juniors in the 1960s. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

“One of the first times I saw him, he wasn’t playing left-back, he was playing on the left wing in a 4-2-3-1.

“What he does give you is terrific pace, with a lovely left foot, which can be very useful for set-pieces. He can take corners and free-kicks and really open out the field.

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“I think there’s an eye for a goal in him as well. He’s a player who can get in on the far posts and score goals. So there’s lots of things that he brings you, especially that capacity to open out the pitch.

“He will have to adapt to extra physicality. The Argentine league is physical, but you look at the players and they are smaller than most of the players he will face in Scotland.

“But what I’ve seen leads me to the conclusion that he has the potential to take this step and maybe steps beyond as well.

“The Champions League puts him in the spotlight. If Celtic weren’t there, I don’t think he would be there and perhaps there wouldn’t be the finance either.

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“I was surprised to hear that this was the first Argentine to sign for Celtic and, if he suceeds, he won’t be the last.”

Lanus have negotiated a 10% share of any future sale of the player included in the deal but uncertainty remains over when Bernabei will be available to make his competitive debut.

He was sent off for headbutting an opponent during what turned out to be his final game for Lanus and the Argentina FA handed him a two-match ban, so his suspension could rule him out of the opening day Premiership clash against Aberdeen.

Meanwhile, former Celtic midfielder Nir Bitton has signed a two-year-deal with the option of a third at Israeli top-flight side Maccabi Tel Aviv.

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The 30-year-old, who moved to Parkhead in 2013 before making 274 appearances and helping Celtic win 18 trophies, returns to his homeland after opting against being re-united with former Hoops boss Neil Lennon at Omonia Nicosia in Cyprus.

Karamoko Dembele’s permanent exit is also set to be announced shortly as the teenage winger closes in on a move to French Ligue 1 side Stade Brestois.

One of the club’s most exciting academy products, Dembele struggled to translate his early promise into regular first-team action and injury prevented him from making an impact last season.

With his contract expiring this summer and no news of an extension, it seems likely the 19-year-old is on his way out of Glasgow.

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