Brendan Rodgers is confident Moussa Dembele’s head will not be turned by the praise heaped upon him by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola ahead of Celtic’s final Champions League fixture of the season at the Etihad Stadium tonight.
Dembele announced himself on the European stage with his stunning performance in the 3-3 draw between the Scottish champions and Guardiola’s side in the reverse fixture at Celtic Park in September.
The 20-year-old French striker scored twice that night, part of a 17-goal haul for Celtic so far this season, and he was described as an “exceptional” talent by Guardiola yesterday.
Manchester City are just one of a clutch of leading English Premier League clubs who have been linked with a move for Dembele, while wealthy German outfit RB Leipzig are also believed to have now joined his list of potential suitors.
But Celtic manager Rodgers remains relaxed about Dembele’s situation and insists the player, who signed a four-year contract when he joined from Fulham last summer, will not allow the plaudits and attention he is attracting to distract him from his continuing development in Glasgow.
Rodgers said: “Moussa is very grounded. That’s one of the really impressive things about him. He is really calm underneath it all. He knows clearly what he wants to achieve. When I sat down and spoke to him, I needed to find out what his ambitions were, to then sell him on how we can help him achieve them. The best players all have a plan in their own mind of what it is they want to do. They have a commitment to that.
“He was a sought-after player but he wanted to come and work at Celtic. He wanted to play at the highest level he could, which was the Champions League, and he has been able to do that.
“His temperament is very impressive and that’s why he will go on and be a world-class striker at the very highest level in Europe. One, because of his ability, but also because he is not affected. He is a big-game player.”
Rodgers, who joked that another two goals from Dembele tonight would raise the player’s asking price to a level which “would set us up for another five years or so”, did not dispute Guardiola’s description of the striker.
“Yeah, he is exceptional,” added Rodgers. “If you watch Moussa and think of his development since he has come to Celtic, then it has been great for everyone. It was a really good move for him. He wanted to come to Celtic to work and he has done very well.
“He’s still young, only turned 20, and there is still a lot to come from him. . But, of course, City felt his performance that night against them at Celtic Park was exceptional.
“If you look throughout Europe, his performances for the French under-21 side and for us in Europe, he has shown he is developing really well.
“All the transfer talk is a by-product of the team doing well. What should be nice for people in Scottish football is that instead of him being talked about as a £5 million player going to a lower-end team in the Premier League, you are talking about £30-£40 million and going to some of the biggest teams in Europe.”