Celtic target Darlington Nagbe, but it’s probably a tough sell for Portland Timbers

Godofredo Vasquez/Godofredo Vasquez-USA TODAY Spor

Portland Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe may be getting a look from Celtic in the Scottish Premiership, but it will probably take a lot to woo him from his current club.

Reports out of the UK on Wednesday said Nagbe had attracted the eye of Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers to fill a hole for the club in the central midfield. The reports put Nagbe’s value around £1.5 million.

It can be difficult to tell just how accurate some of the unsourced tabloid rumors that pop up overseas are, but Nagbe confirmed he is in Scotland, tweeting from Celtic’s Champions League loss to Barcelona on Wednesday. His tweet seemed to confirm reports from earlier in the day that Nagbe had been given a tour of Parkhead and would attend the match later.

Officials for the Portland Timbers told the Oregonian they expect Nagbe will be back with them next season. That, of course, is hardly a surprise. He is under contract until 2019 and, although Nagbe didn’t have a repeat of the sort of special season he had in 2015, he has remained a core piece of the club.

The Timbers have a reputation of doing right by their players. When Jorge Villafana wanted to go to Liga MX, they sold him. But the loss of Villafana hurt them when they never found a suitable replacement, and when top-scorer Fanendo Adi tried to get an abrupt midseason transfer this summer after having signed a new contract only months prior, the Timbers rejected his requests. So, the Timbers aren’t going to sell Nagbe unless they can make it work.

The problem with Nagbe’s $2 million valuation, at least for the Timbers, is that he offers depth at multiple positions. He is capable of playing a box-to-box role, a central playmaking role or along the right wing. Replacing him on the depth chart could involve too much work for the Timbers to be willing to transfer him.

But it’s also difficult to see Celtic increase their offer significantly. Nagbe has no professional experience outside of MLS, and he’s had up and down seasons with the Timbers. He’s an excellent passer who knows how to move the ball around and he’s great in transition, but he hasn’t been productive enough in front of goal this year. If Celtic were targeting Nagbe, it’s probably because he was a cheaper option than some others on the table, but their offer doesn’t look like it’ll even be enough.

For Nagbe, it’s easy to see why such a move would appeal to him. His potential has exceeded what he has been able to deliver on the field at times, and a change of scenery could give him a boost. He had been only on the cusp of the national team under coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who preferred his players to go into more challenging playing environments overseas. Of course, with Klinsmann being sacked earlier this week in favor of longtime MLS coach Bruce Arena, Nagbe may no longer need to worry about that, but it could still be something he’s thinking about.

Still, while it appears the reports of Celtic targeting Nagbe are true, a deal looks unlikely to be done anytime soon.

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