Town's midfield magician has left the building... but will he return for season three?

Bersant Celina's second Ipswich loan has come to an end. Will there be a third?

Bersant Celina's second Ipswich loan has come to an end. Will there be a third? - Credit: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town’s midfield magician has left the building once again. For now, at least. 

Another season-long loan in Suffolk has come to an end for Bersant Celina. And, by and large, he’s left the same feeling he did as he departed at the end of 2017/18. 

On both occasions, the 25-year-old has been a hugely popular member of the Ipswich squad and has produced some of the season’s most magical moments. 

Ipswich Town CEO Mark Ashton greets Bersant Celina at Playford Road

Town CEO Mark Ashton greets Bersant Celina after he had signed for the Blues - Credit: ITFC

That’s his currency. He’s a player who can produce something out of nothing, turn a game on its head and electrify supporters. 

He certainly did that during 2021/22. 

Take your pick from the dramatic winner against Fleetwood, the stunning chip against Crewe, a brilliant brace at Wycombe and the Oxford goal which sparked wild (and all too brief) scenes in the away end.  

There were more, too. 

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There were plenty of games in which you left feeling Celina was too good for League One and that he can do things nobody else in the division can. 

His vision, his awareness and his passing ability under pressure can border on the sublime. He sees things others don’t and is capable of turning that into big moments. 

But, just as was the case during his first year in Suffolk, there were other games when he didn’t figure as prominently as we would have hoped or expected. 

Bersant Celina applaud supporters after the game.

Bersant Celina scored six goals for Ipswich last season - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

In many ways there is real symmetry between his two loan years. In both it’s been pretty clear Celina was right at the top of the squad list when it came to talent, but both times he made just 23 league starts, had quiet games and spells out of the team as a result. 

There are mitigating factors this time around, given Celina’s arrival at Town came at a time when he was recovering from a Covid-related heart problem, which delayed his start to his second spell. 

A slow start was understandable but he came on strong. He seemed to particularly enjoy Kieran McKenna’s football. 

But, will we see him pull on an Ipswich shirt again? 

Dave Richards is beaten by Bersant Celina as Town take a 2-0 lead.

Dave Richards is beaten by Bersant Celina as Town take a 2-0 lead. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

It’s certainly not out of the question.  

There’s a deal to be done with Dijon by somebody. Just as Ipswich did in League One, Celina’s parent club finished 11th in Ligue 2 last season as they fell well short of an instant return to the top flight.  

To combat relegation in 2020/21, they loaned out the majority of their biggest earners, Celina included, and a second campaign outside the top flight isn’t going to make it any easier to carry those salaries in the coming season. 

It was a difficult deal for Ipswich to do as a League One club but there’s a feeling it can be done for a second time this summer, with a third loan season the most likely outcome should Ipswich move for the Kosovo international again. 

Bersant Celina celebrates his goal just before the break with a lift from teammate Sone Aluko.

Bersant Celina celebrates his goal just before the break with a lift from teammate Sone Aluko. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Just as he had last summer, when clubs from the Middle East showed interest, Celina will have a varied market during the coming window. He loves English football and loves Ipswich Town, sharing an excellent relationship with supporters, but that alone doesn’t guarantee he’ll be back at Portman Road.  

What is certain is that Town will be signing an attacking midfielder this summer. Conor Chaplin and Sone Aluko are the senior options in McKenna’s squad, with Celina’s exit leaving a hole in need of filling. 

He may fill it himself, he may not. 

McKenna knows what Celina can do and CEO Mark Ashton has proven he has the business skills, financial means and contacts to do a deal for a player who will almost certainly have suitors at comparatively higher levels. 

Bersant Celina celebrates scoring for Ipswich at Oxford.

Bersant Celina celebrates scoring for Ipswich at Oxford. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

But a deal so costly would need Celina to be right at the very top of McKenna’s shopping list. If the Blues truly see Celina as their No.1 option this summer then a return is a real possibility. 

Celina ticks a lot of boxes but McKenna has spoken publicly of a desire to sign ‘athletic’ players this summer. For all his quality, that’s a box Celina doesn’t quite tick. 

So it may just be the Blues boss is looking for something a little different this summer. 

In short, both parties will likely have other options at least worthy of exploring.

But as long as Ipswich are still looking for their attacking midfielder and as long as Celina hasn’t moved elsewhere, the man for the big moments will surely remain a real option. 

It feels like we will be talking about him for a little while yet.