Celtic: David Turnbull should be central in rebuild, says Michael Stewart

By Scott MullenBBC Sport Scotland

"Celtic should build a team around him... he has all the talent in the world."

To an outsider, BBC Scotland pundit Michael Stewart's proclamation could be about a gem unearthed from a Premier League club, or a big-money signing plundered from a European powerhouse.

But Celtic fans and followers of Scottish football will understand why he is talking about 21-year-old Scot David Turnbull, the brightest light in a gloomy campaign for the faltering defending champions.

Here, BBC Scotland takes a look at one of the league's hottest young properties to see why Stewart has tipped him for the very top.

'He has all the talent in the world'

Turnbull's place in the Celtic spotlight has been a long time coming.

After a breakthrough season of 15 goals in 30 games for Motherwell, knee surgery scuppered a £3.25m move to Celtic in the summer of 2019. Almost a year out tested the resolve of Turnbull, who eventually secured that life-changing switch in August last year.

But it wasn't until Celtic's form nosedived at the start of December that Turnbull was afforded the opportunity to shine properly. Manager Neil Lennon said at the time he was perhaps surprised as to just how good the young Scot was, maybe to the annoyance of those who had been clamouring for his inclusion.

But there has been no sign of chagrin from Turnbull. Just influence. Seven goals have followed, including a winner against Lille on his European debut, with his most recent knuckleball strike sealing victory over Aberdeen in midweek.

"One of the first times I saw him play I said he was destined for the top," said Stewart. "His ability and football brain is there for all to see.

"Everybody has seen the impact he's had for Celtic since he's been put in the side. And for anyone who has seen him before for Motherwell, you can tell he's top class."

David Turnbull chances graphic
Turnbull has created more chances - including assists - this season than any other player in the Premiership

Despite his limited game time in the first third of the season, Turnbull is the Premiership's joint fourth-top assist provider with five.

A modest tally, but the profligacy of those he is providing may tell a story - he has created more chances in the Scottish top flight than any other player. He has also made 202 passes into the opposition box, the fourth-highest behind James Tavernier, Borna Barisic and Chris Burke.

"As long as he has that hunger and desire I don't see why he can't go and play at the highest level. I don't see why Celtic shouldn't build a team around him," said Stewart.

"He has got to be the identikit of what they want to build a team around. He's young, Scottish and has all the ability in the world. Celtic need to determine who's staying and who's going, and Turnbull is right at the top of the 'who needs to stay' category."

Scotland's secret weapon for the Euros?

In just little over 100 days, Scotland will face Czech Republic to end a 23-year wait for an appearance at a major finals.

A chunk of Steve Clarke's national treasures who sealed a spot at the European Championship come from a Celtic squad being lit up by the 21-year-old. But is current form an indication the former Under-21 cap merits a maiden call up to the senior team?

"I'm not looking at that now, I'm just taking it game by game. But if that happened it would be a bonus," said Turnbull on the topic this week. But the stats make a strong case for him.

David Turnbull shots graphic

Club mate Ryan Christie is the only Scot in the Premiership who has taken more shots this season - 71 to 66 - but has played eight games more. The Celtic new boy has also been involved in more shots than any other player in the league.

Turnbull has quickly embedded himself as a must-start for Lennon at the apex of the Celtic midfield. With Callum McGregor now playing a deeper role, this has given the 21-year-old licence to play with a freedom as well as a purpose.

Along with Mohamed Elyounoussi, he has the second-highest goal tally at Celtic in the league behind Odsonne Edouard, while only the Frenchman has been involved in more Celtic league goals.

With a triple header coming up next month against Austria, Israel (again) and the Faroe Islands in World Cup qualification, that could provide the perfect time to get a glimpse at him in the national team.

"I don't think it's too early for Turnbull to be in the Scotland squad," said Stewart. "It's just that midfield is one of the strongest parts of the Scotland team.

"And it then becomes an issue for the manager whether he wants to stick with the people who have been involved with the camp that got Scotland to the Euros or not. From my perspective there's no doubt he's good enough."

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