Brendan Rodgers has said he will not be constrained by a wage cap as he seeks to add quality to his Celtic playing squad.
The Parkhead manager, who has begun to acquaint himself with the personnel he inherited after they returned to pre-season training this week, revealed that a limit has not been spoken about and maintained that if a key target becomes available on a higher wage than any of the current squad, he would be able to make a pitch for him.
“Absolutely. That’s the case,” he said. “I understand the market as well. I can’t go out and get Luis Suarez, I know that. But I know that the club will push to get the best possible player that we can and that’s what they have done.
“All I ever want is the highest quality. To me, it’s not about numbers. I need quality over quantity. When you have a high level in two or three players that can really lift the group, you find they raise the bar.
“Of course, you inherit a group high on numbers and that needs to be cut, but you also need to bring a couple in who can improve the squad. I don’t know what has happened before. All I can talk about is my experience. Every club will run on affordability and availability.”
He said he will not be forced to sell existing squad members to facilitate any additional recruitment but divulged that there would probably still be a clear-out ahead of the new campaign. “It’s just out of a way of working,” he added. “I work with a small group of players but I have to respect that there are players on a contract. That process started a few weeks back and that will continue. I have a way I want to work but it takes time.”
The intention is to move swiftly, with the European tie in mind. “I would hope to do business before the first Champions League qualifier and the club have been brilliant. I’ve spoken about a couple of targets and Peter [Lawwell] and Dermot [Desmond] have been great in trying to progress those. I would hope they could be done, but it’s just going to take time but none of those are determined on whether or not we qualify for the group stages.”
He conceded that the early start to the European adventure complicates matters, as he tries to strike a balance between giving last season’s Premiership-winning players the chance to impress and building a squad he believes will have the capability to contest the European ties as well as all the domestic competitions.
“It’s not easy. You come in and want to look at and assess the players and the honest thing is that, from afar, I didn’t know a great deal about a lot of them. I tried to analyse as much as I possibly could when I knew I was coming here, but you still like to see them close-up and then you get a different perspective.”
Celtic will face either Estonian side Flora Tallinn or Lincoln of Gibraltar in the Champions League second qualifying round and they will only discover their opponents on 5/6 July, once the winners of the first qualifying round are known.
The first leg, Rodgers’ first competitive fixture in charge, is away on 12/13 July, with the return on 19/20 July.
Having lost out in the final play-off round in the past two seasons, Rodgers understands the magnitude of the task facing him and said it underlined the need to enhance the calibre of the squad.
“I understand all clubs have a model and from my talks and speaking to Celtic, they all want that [develop younger players]. But, of course, you need experience around that. There is no question about that. You need that quality of player.”
Having revealed a close friendship with Mark Warburton, he said the Rangers manager had warned him of the intensity of life in Glasgow. Promising they would protect that relationship, he is also becoming very aware of being under a microscope. Quizzed on the players who had missed out on the first couple of days of pre-season, he said there was nothing sinister in it and claimed that it will be a close call for the likes of Kris Commons to make the qualifiers.
Rodgers added: “We worked with a group of 20 players and obviously some of those guys were with the medical team.”
But he is hoping to have Charlie Mulgrew at his disposal, despite no progress being made on the Scotland international’s contract situation.
“He is a player I have spoken to. A player we would like to keep of course. But that depends on how contract talks go. I always liked Charlie, watching him from afar. But I think
everyone respects as well that he is at a stage of his career where it could well be his last contract. I always respect that with older players at 29 or 30 years of age.”