£5m man turned down Celtic in January and he might regret that now

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Photo by Dave Howarth – CameraSport via Getty Images

Just two days after confirming the signing of Riley McGree for a fee that could rise to £5 million, Middlesbrough beat Reading 2-1 and moved up to sixth place in the Championship, just seven points off the automatic promotion positions. 

On the back of four wins in a row – and six in seven games – McGree could have been forgiven for assuming his dreams were about to come true.   

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“(Middlesbrough) is a big club, big ambitions, the set-up there is second-to-none. And with Chris Wilder coming in and the direction in which the club wants to go, they’re in a good position in terms of play-offs at the moment,” McGree explained to The Age.  

“Playing in the Premier League is obviously the end goal. It would be a dream. All these things tied into one was the reason I chose to go Middlesbrough.” 

Celtic named Scottish Premiership champions

After a protracted transfer saga that dominated much of the January discussions north of the border, McGree opted against re-uniting with his former Australia boss Ange Postecoglou at Celtic in favour of joining forces with Wilder in England’s north east.

“Me and Ange did have a conversation,” the former Birmingham City loanee would add. “At the end of the day, it’s my career. And I strongly believe I did what’s best for me.” 

Of course, McGree could turn out to be right. In Wilder, Middlesbrough have not just one of the best managers in the Championship but in the whole of English football. He guided Sheffield United to the promised land back in 2019 and has a grand total of five promotions on his CV, at a variety of different clubs. 

Boro knocked both Man United and Tottenham out of the FA Cup recently too.

But you can forget about the Liverpools, the Manchester Citys and the Chelseas for now. That 4-1 final day thumping at Preston North End means it’s another season of second-tier football for Boro.

Middlesbrough were sixth and seven points off the top two when McGree arrived four months ago. They finished the season seventh, and 18 points off second spot. 

Photo by Alex Dodd – CameraSport via Getty Images

The right call?

There was to be no such heartbreak at Celtic. A 1-1 draw at Dundee United on Wednesday night confirmed not only the first Premiership title of Ange Postecoglou’s reign, but also automatic qualification to the Champions League group-stages. 

And who knows, perhaps Matt O’Riley, the man Celtic signed in McGree’s place, will be going head-to-head with Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Paris Saint-Germain come September.

Now, McGree is obviously a man who knows what he wants. But as the champagne popped and fizzed at Tannadice, McGree’s insistence that he made the right call choosing Riverside over Parkhead might have wavered, even for just a second. 

Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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