Efe Ambrose: Everything Liverpool Fans Need To Know About Their Next Centre-Back
Speculation that Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has his eye on Celtic utility man Efe Ambrose has raised more than a few eyebrows in Glasgow, being met largely with surprise and, in some quarters, even hilarity. Few players in Neil Lennon’s squad split the opinion of the support quite as spectacularly as the big Nigerian. Ambrose recently experienced the best and worst moments of his career within the space of a couple of days, lifting the African Cup of Nations with Nigeria before almost single-handedly wrecking Celtic’s Champions League dream with some absolute howlers almost as soon he got off the plane. Could the next twist in this bizarre tale really be a move to Anfield?
What’s good about him?
Though they are not universally recognised by Celtic supporters, Ambrose has a lot of attributes. Versatility is the first: he was signed by Neil Lennon to fill the team’s problem centre-half position but he’s played right across the back four and most of the way across the midfield since his arrival in the late summer. Goals is another – he’s scored a few already and his acrobatic cartwheel celebration is a joy to behold. He’s also a pretty composed figure, happy to take a few touches and find a decent pass from the back, or even take the ball forward himself. He’s definitely not one for the traditional British centre-half approach of ‘if in doubt, hoof it out.’ Some say he’s the archetypal footballing defender while others have even tagged him as classy.
Why do some fans not rate him then?
Well, therein lies the nub of The Great Ambrose Debate. That very desire to play football and the willingness to dwell on the ball in dangerously deep areas often has Hoops fans watching through their fingers and missing heartbeats. ‘An accident waiting to happen’ some said, and the doubters were proved right in the recent Champions League clash with Juventus. Having already gifted Juve one goal with a schoolboy attempt at a header, he tried to go for a run just outside his own box and lost possession. Needless to say, the clinical Italians weren’t in forgiving mood and Celtic’s proud home record in the Champions League was obliterated. He’s also not the bulkiest by centre-half standards and, whereas he can stroll his way through SPL games relatively unchallenged, he was physically overpowered by Spartak Moscow’s Emmanuel Emenike in the Champions League. There’s no doubt that Ambrose can play, but he has a lot to do yet to earn the trust of the Celtic fans.
So what’s the verdict?
Everyone has a bad day sometimes, and it was unfortunate that Efe’s had to come in the biggest game of the season. Having only arrived back from South Africa on the day of the Juventus match, he probably shouldn’t have played: a thought that probably still gives Neil Lennon sleepless nights. It’s only fair to remember that he was an awesome presence in the win against Barcelona and has been a key part of tightening up Celtic’s traditionally leaky back line. A phrase often used by Gordon Strachan springs to mind in relation to Ambrose: as the former Celtic boss might have said, “There’s a player in there somewhere.” At 24, he’s by no means at the top of his game yet and the move to Glasgow from his former home of Israel, taking part in the Champions League, and being flown off to AfCON must have been something of a whirlwind. A full season under his belt should knock some of the rough edges off and the smart money is on Ambrose being an impressive performer next season.
Will he go south?
A move to England might not be the right thing for him so soon. Three clubs in three countries in three consecutive seasons isn’t exactly conducive to settling down and playing your best football. Maybe Ambrose knows this himself, since he has already made noises about extending his contract at Celtic. As ever, though, the appeal of the wages on offer in the Premiership could be a powerful motivating factor. For Celtic’s part, they stood firm on Gary Hooper and Victor Wanyama during the January transfer window and have shown a real desire to avoid the team being dismantled by predators from south of the border. Ambrose might be a different matter though. Should Liverpool or anyone else make a decent offer for a player who isn’t yet established as essential to the team, they could easily take the money and run, and who could blame them?
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