Unlike Larsson though, Kayal has been impressive since we first saw him in a Celtic shirt. When he made his debut in the 2-0 win against Utrecht, he looked a class apart even then. But so did Efrain Juarez, so maybe we can’t focus too much on that…
His all round play is something the Celtic midfield has been missing since Stan Petrov left. We now have someone who loves a tackle. Someone who isn’t afraid to do the dirty work. Someone who can pass the ball all day, be it two yards or 72 yards. And, more recently, a midfielder who has a wicked shot in him.
With Lennon in charge, it was far too easy to get excited by the prospect of the new, dynamic Celtic midfield. But then, as usual, disaster struck – Kayal ruptured his hernia and was out for the best part of three months.
It wasn’t until that period in winter did we see just how crucial Beram Kayal was to Celtic and how the team played, as three consecutive home draws against SPL fodder damaged the team’s title challenge and put a massive dent in the team’s confidence.
It’s games like that where you need a leader to get the rest of his team mates going again to get them jumping and pumped up for action. A couple of hard (but fair) challenges is all it takes to motivate the rest of the team to follow suit. Unfortunately for Celtic, though, was that leader was out with a hernia… And ultimately, one could argue that the league was decided with that run of draws.
Fast forward four weeks later and a team who isn’t playing that well, lacking in confidence and without some key players, go to their biggest rival’s for what is a massive game. Obviously, this was the occasion for Kayal to step up and absolutely dominate the match and almost single handedly bring us back in to lead contention for the title.
Obviously, it wasn’t all Beram. Squad players such as Charlie Mulgrew and even ‘Big Sammie’ rose to the challenge and put in almost heroic performances. But it was Kayal who excelled most, putting in the dominant performance that the Celtic midfield has been missing since Lennon retired. He pressed, tackled, harassed and had a couple of decent shots – he did everything that day.
One of the main things that pleased me personally was the way in which he got under the noses of Rangers – fans and players. He body checked McCulloch and niggled Weir for the whole game – something which they have been getting away with for years. He did all this with an aurora about him, as if he born to do this in this sort of fixture.
Which was true, because just a month later Celtic travelled to Ibrox again, and Kayal put in the same sort of performance, but only better. Even though we could only get a draw against Rangers, it felt like a win. We went over to Ibrox and dominated the match, despite having a man less, and Kayal was at the heart of everything.
As the season went on his consistent performances would obviously attract attention and despite only playing 20-25 games for the club, he was already being linked to £10+ million moves to the Premiership; quite a testament to a player who had been injured for a lot of the season.
People might argue that some fans, myself included, are going overboard about Kayal. If you look at Celtic central midfielders in the past couple years, though (Hartley, Donati, Robson, N’Guemo, Flood, Crosas…), then maybe you have an insight to why we are raving to the heavens about ‘The Sultan’.
One can only wonder what the season would have been like if players such as Kayal, Hooper and even Commons had been around for a full campaign. Regardless, one thing is for sure: a player like Beram Kayal is quite a rarity for Celtic and is absolutely integral to the club. When he was missing, we didn’t win. When he played, we won. It was that simple, and hopefully the lack of an SPL trophy this season will convince the board that he must stay.
I know this article has been as much of a worship to Beram Kayal as humanely possible, but I can’t emphasise enough just how good this man can be for our football club. I honestly hope he stays for a couple of seasons at least, because Neil Lennon has brought the feel good factor back to Celtic, the sort of feeling we had in the O’Neill era, and Kayal can, and should be, at the heart of it.