Vasilis Barkas writes Celtic love letter to man he'll never forget as keeper knows real reason transfer didn't work

Vasilis Barkas admits he seriously regrets that his time at Celtic didn't go as planned - but says adapting to life at a 'big' club in a new country was difficult during Covid.

Greek keeper Barkas arrived from AEK Athens with big expectations on his shoulders after Neil Lennon shelled out £4.5m for a man he planned to make his new No.1 in the summer of 2020. But he struggled badly with some alarming form, losing his spot to Scott Bain halfway through the season as Celtic yielded the title to Steven Gerrard's Rangers.

A change of managers ultimately spelled the end with Barkas unable to force his way in under Ange Postecoglou and he was loaned out to Utrecht in the summer of 2022, a deal which was made permanent a year later when his contract expired. Speaking to World Football Index, Barkas offered some insight as to why it all went wrong - saying the backdrop of the pandemic and ever-changing lockdown regulations made it hard to acclimatise to life in a new country.

He said: “It was a move that excited me at the time, but the timing was unlucky as no one knew that Covid would have the impact on things as it did. I went to another country to play outside Greece for the first time and due to the situation, players had to be in different changing rooms and stay apart from each other as much as possible.

“That meant that I was not able to have the connection with my teammates like I had at AEK before I arrived. I was also not able to enjoy the simple things such as going out for coffee as you were not allowed to with the Covid rules.

“I felt like I did not have a period to acclimatise to Scotland as I would have liked which impacted on my mental health and then in my ability to perform as I had before. People may look at me and say that it did not work out and that is true, but Celtic is a big club in European football, and I always have to thank them for what they gave me as it was my first experience of football abroad and I saw a different football culture. Sure, it did not work out for me as I would have liked but that is life, and it cannot be changed.”

Barkas looks back fondly on his time at Parkhead though, particularly his relationship with the man currently between the sticks at Celtic. “Joe Hart was a fantastic person as well as being a fantastic player, with a strong sense of humour," he went on. "He achieved so much by winning the Premier League and FA Cup at Manchester City, but he never had an ego. He was humble and worked hard every single day in training. We had a strong relationship and shared many laughs together. It was a pleasure to know him.”