According to a report from the FanSided blog The Celtic Bhoys, Sporting Kansas City forward Johnny Russell is interested in a move to Scotland to play for one of the country’s most dominant teams, Celtic. The site does incorrectly refer to Sporting KC as “Real Kansas City.” That’s as if Real Salt Lake and and Sporting KC had a kid. Oh how the parent clubs would be disappointed. But I digress.
In an apparent interview with Derby County’s RamsTV, Russell admitted to being homesick.
“I’m enjoying it, it’s been good for me,” Russell said. I do miss it here, but it’s a decision that I felt that had to make at the time. It’s worked out for me, but I do miss it here and I miss the boys here as well. The distance that you travel, although we were away from home here [at Derby County], it’s not far for the family to come down. Not having family over as frequent as normal, especially having a little girl as well, so it’s been tough. I’m a bit homesick at times, but it’s been a great experience, something I’ve had to adapt to and I feel I’ve done that well.”
The Derby Telegraph confirms the quote, though makes no mention of Russell being linked to Celtic. In the past, when Russell was set to leave Dundee United, he nearly went to Celtic instead of Derby County.
If Russell were to leave, it would be heartbreaking for Kansas City fans. Though he’s just been with the club for one year, he’s been fully embraced by both his teammates and the fans. He and winger partner Daniel Salloi, despite the age difference, have formed a great bond.
In 2018 Russell appeared in 30 league games (24 starts), scored 10 goals and added 10 assists. He hit a bit of a lull in the summer as he struggled to deal with the brutal Midwest humidity and the extensive travel that’s necessary to play in the United States. But he overcame it and finished the season strong, including a strong playoff performance. He even made the Audi Player Index Best XI for the MLS Cup Playoffs.
If Russell were to leave it would be a huge blow to Sporting KC in the 2019 season as well as to their hopes of winning the CONCACAF Champions League. One would think if he truly wants to leave, Peter Vermes won’t stop him. In the past he’s allowed players that were unhappy or otherwise requesting a move to leave.
Transfermarkt reports that Russell’s 2018 transfer from Derby to SKC was for €280K ($318,740). One would think, even if Russell wants to move, Vermes would ask for a lot more in to send one of his best players out.
With the sting of the Diego Rubio trade still weighing on many fans minds, this would be a crushing blow to the 2019 version of Sporting KC. While Russell will inevitably leave, let’s hope it’s not until at least the 2020 season.
Before panicking, there is very little reason to suspect this has any basis in truth. The interview with Russell says he “occasionally felt homesick” which anyone that far from home would at times. A blog that can not even get Sporting KC’s name correct then starts a rumor.
Those of us who saw Russell on a regular basis saw how much fun he was having. While he routinely put on a very straight face while being interviewed, as soon as the cameras and recorders were off he was joking and teasing team mates.
Russell on repeated occasions talked about how playing for Sporting KC re-energized him, let him love playing again and how it helped get him back in the Scotland National Team picture was well.
Could it be true? Well anything could be true but with how happy Russell was in Kansas City in 2018 it would be doubtful he wants to leave that quickly.
Thad Bell - Editor
Update on 12/24/18: After this story was written, Johnny Russell commented on Diego Rubio’s farewell post and said, “Good luck my friend, we will see you soon.” That would seem to imply that Russell has no plans to move at this time. Screenshot below thanks to our Facebook follower Levi Barton.