CELTIC manager Ronny Deila insists he has no concerns over Nadir Ciftci’s temperament after the Turkish striker was involved in a training-ground altercation with Emilio Izaguirre following which the Honduran left-back was taken to hospital for treatment to an ear wound.
The Scottish champions’ preparations for tonight’s League Cup quarter-final against Hearts at Tynecastle were disrupted by the bust-up between Ciftci and Izaguirre at their Lennoxtown training centre yesterday morning.
Ciftci responded angrily to a tackle by Izaguirre, kicking out at his clubmate and catching him on the ear. Izaguirre had stitches inserted to repair the damage.
Deila, who did not witness the incident personally, spoke to both players afterwards and is content there is no lingering ill-will between them.
Ciftci arrived at Celtic in the summer from Dundee United in a £1.5 million move, bringing with him a reputation as one of the most hot-headed players in the Scottish Premiership.
The 23-year-old was booked 30 times and sent off once during his two seasons with United. He was also cited by the SFA Compliance Officer four times. He received a two-match ban for excessive misconduct for placing his hand onto the throat of assistant referee Gavin Harris during a League Cup tie against Inverness.
Nadir is a very emotional guy and that’s fantastic. That’s why he’s a good footballerRonny Deila
He then successfully challenged bans on two occasions, for allegedly striking Inverness defender Gary Warren and then for kicking Celtic captain Scott Brown. Both cases were found not proven by disciplinary tribunals.
His fourth case resulted in him being handed an eight-match suspension, two of them suspended, for biting the leg of Dundee player Jim McAlister in his final appearance for United at the end of last season. Consequently, he sat out Celtic’s first six league games of this season.
Ciftci has struggled to make an impact at the club so far, scoring just twice in 13 appearances, but Deila is satisfied with his conduct both on and off the pitch.
“Nadir is a very emotional guy and that’s fantastic,” said Deila. “That’s why he’s a good football player. A lot of players here have pride and commitment in the game and I think Nadir has really, really gotten better on the pitch, he works much harder and he’s been very disciplined on the pitch as well. I think he has gone in a very good direction since he came here.
“He has learned. At Celtic, there have not been any incidents on the pitch. He’s been very good and he learns a lot coming to a culture like this.
“He’s learning how to be a professional footballer – and I don’t mean he didn’t at Dundee United. But the culture here is so competitive and so challenging to get into the team and perform. We’re happy with how he is doing.
“He’s a handful because he’s very emotional but a lot of players are like this. But if they cause you problems, then they cause the opponent problems as well.
“For me, there’s not been a problem and he’s wanting to learn, but you need to speak and be close to him. Everyone needs to feel supported and be guided.
“I wasn’t there when the incident with Emilio happened, so I should have sent everybody else in here to talk to you about it! But what I am told happened was a tackle from Emilio in the boxes and then Nadir reacted to that tackle, he thought that was very hard and he tried to get away from it.
“And then he kicked back and he hits his face and he didn’t know that or see that, and he caught his ear. Emilio had to go to the hospital to get a couple of stitches to put it together. There was no purpose in hitting his face. Both are available for the game on Wednesday night.
“It was a tackle which was a little bit too much, then there was a reaction, but Nadir didn’t actually mean to kick him there. It was a bit unlucky but I talked with both players and they have moved on from it.
“It happens in training, the intensity is high. It’s too soon for me to say anything sure about it but it’s nothing big here and I talked to both players and we move on from it.”
Deila welcomes intensity in training but does not encourage the kind of full-blooded challenge which apparently caused Ciftci to react so furiously.
“I don’t want hard tackles in training,” added Deila. “Players should stay on their feet and we talk about that all the time for training.
“But you can stay on your feet and play with a 100 per cent intensity. I don’t want stupid tackles that you might see in a game – that’s to protect each other.
“I said that we have to protect each other but be intense. Sometimes you can’t control it and it gets too much.
“The first thing I said to players when I came here was that we train as we play. Of course we protect each other and things but we need to train at the intensity we have in games.
“When you have so many good players, as we have here, the intensity is sometimes better in training than it is in games because the ‘opponents’ you have here can be better than the ones you face in games. So that’s good. But when you are on the line all the time sometimes you can go a little bit over, like the small incident today.”