Erik Sviatchenko has revealed that he rebuffed overtures from English champions Leicester City because he is not yet ready to leave Celtic for the Premier League.
The Danish defender had piqued the interest of Claudio Ranieri in January and discussions took place with the player’s agent. With the amiable Italian coach crudely and cruelly unseated last week, it was perhaps a fateful decision by Sviatchenko who insists playing with Brendan Rodgers’ side is perfect at this stage of his career.
However, the 25-year-old has not hidden his desire to move to the world’s most lucrative league in the future.
Sviatchenko, looking to help Celtic maintain their astonishing domestic run in Inverness tonight, said: “I was aware of interest in January and I knew it was Leicester. I’m always aware when my agent is having some talks but there has to be more than just talks.
“There was never an issue about me wanting to leave. I’m 25 and I want to play regularly and here is the perfect place to flourish and find your ‘A’ game. There was concrete interest but not a concrete offer. I said that I was happy where I am and at that time I was playing. It was too early for me at that stage.
“It is a dream for every player, including myself, to play at the very top level and I would say the English Premier League is one of the highest levels you can play at.
“But the experience so far with the Champions League and how we play, I think I am at the right stage at the moment.
“I would be honest and transparent and say that my dream is to play in the Premier League but I am not saying that I want to do it now because I have more than enough to do yet.
“I feel that I have come a long way but I am not done at all, yet. The Champions League nights have been the biggest nights of my career so far and I would like to experience more of them.”
Perhaps four appearances on the bench in the last seven matches has been a chastening experience for the Dane, who had virtually been an everpresent previously, and it has only made him more determined.
He was suspended for the Scottish Cup tie against Albion Rovers which allowed an opportunity for Dedryck Boyata to return and Rodgers has rotated his defence since.
Sviatchenko said: “I hadn’t done anything wrong but there was a suspension held over from last season that we weren’t aware of. It was a booking from the Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers – the game I scored in.
“I wasn’t worried because I believe in my qualities. I know that I’m an important player.
“There are some things the manager wants me to be even better at, like bringing the ball forward and that’s something I’m working on.
“It would be too easy to say: ‘That’s football – my time is up here.’ This is the first time in my career I have been on the bench like that but I just want to work hard and, after having been out, I have a better perspective on things.”
It was in the Highland capital that Celtic experienced the only blemish thus far in an otherwise flawless league campaign when Caley Thistle scrambled a late equaliser on 18 September.
If it was irritable at the time, it does not trouble Sviatchenko now, although he does admit completing the entire season without domestic defeat is an incentive.
Celtic have 12 league games remaining and potentially three Scottish Cup matches.
He said: “The closer we get to something it can become a target. Personally speaking I could say that it is something that we would remember and be remembered for so it is a big thing but it is nothing that we talk about.
“If it happens, it happens but we have been really pleased so far.
“We have already made history once so why not make it again but it is too early to say that just now.
“There are still some tough games and every team we face at the moment will do as much as they can to stop our unbeaten run. It means as much to them to stop us as it does to us to keep it going. So we need our ‘A’ game in every game.”