It's been a meteoric rise for Alistair Johnston.
In the past year, the 24-year-old defender has experienced an MLS breakout with CF Montréal, featured at the 2022 FIFA World Cup with Canada and secured a transfer to Scottish Premiership giants Celtic FC (officially finalized on Saturday).
Fresh off competing in Qatar with Les Rouges, Johnston said the opportunity to prove himself at one of Europe's most recognizable clubs was simply too good to pass up.
"I'm over the moon with it, to be honest," Johnston said in a Celtic FC introductory interview. "When a club like Celtic comes calling, it'll turn any footballer's head. Especially for myself growing up in a British household, Celtic was one of the clubs that is near and dear to our hearts.
"For me, it's one of the biggest clubs in the world. So to hear that this was a club that was interested in me, to see the project that the coaching staff had, the progress this club continues to make in Europe, it was exciting."
The final nudge for joining Celtic? Johnston said that arrived from former CF Montréal captain Victor Wanyama.
The ex-Kenyan international played for Celtic from 2011-13 before his English Premier League stops with Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur. A good word was passed along that the Scottish side might be a perfect fit, both culturally and in terms of playing style.
"He was glowing, trust me," Johnston said. "Agent Victor was on it from the get-go. I just remember a couple months back he actually brought it up to me. He's like, 'Mate, I think Celtic's the perfect fit for you.' It's funny, I thought, 'Yeah, I completely agree.' I don't know if you know anything going on behind the scenes but surely if there is Agent Victor could get on it.
"He's played at some massive clubs: Spurs, Southhampton, Celtic. And he said everything else paled in comparison to Celtic. ... So he said, 'Look, mate, it's the perfect club for you. You'll love it over there. It'll fit your style, how you want to play the game and your passion for the game as well.'"
Now, Johnston will look to build on his MLS breakout with Nashville SC and Montréal, joining the latter in a trade last winter. He helped Montréal earn the No. 2 seed in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, recording four goals and five assists while playing both center back and right back.
Johnston also established himself as a key cog for Canada as they topped Concacaf World Cup Qualifying and were eliminated in Group F. It was Canada's second-ever World cup (first since 1986) before they co-host in 2026 alongside the US and Mexico.
"It's all about getting our young players to be playing at the highest level, to continue to develop," Johnston said. "I think this is just another great showing of another young player making the best of their opportunities and being given an opportunity to go play in a club like Celtic is something I cherish."