JASON Denayer has expressed his willingness to return to Celtic for a second loan spell next season if it is sanctioned by Manchester City.
The Belgian defender’s impressive first campaign with Celtic was recognised this week with his nomination for the PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year award.
Denayer has previously been less than forthcoming when discussing his future beyond the end of this season. But the 19-year-old has now admitted he could be amenable to Celtic manager Ronny Deila’s wish to secure his services for a further 12 months.
“Of course I would be happy to do that,” said Denayer. “I’ve had a very good year at Celtic so far. I would be happy to come back.
“I have no time set at the moment for when I will decide what is happening next season. I will need to wait until the summer to see what is happening. I prefer just to focus on the present and then see what happens.”
With uncertainty surrounding the future of City manager Manuel Pellegrini beyond the end of this season, it remains to be seen whether Denayer will be granted first-team squad status at his parent club.
His stock has certainly grown as a result of his loan move to Celtic, however, earning him a first senior appearance for the Belgian national team last month. After his debut against Israel, Denayer was hailed by former international Lorenzo Staelens as “a diamond who will be the future of the Belgium defence for years to come” and “a player who will very soon be at a club like Real Madrid”.
It is the kind of praise which could turn any teenager’s head, but Denayer remains a thoroughly grounded individual which he credits to the influence of his father Andre who has lived with him in Glasgow throughout his time at Celtic.
“What was said about me in Belgium is just someone talking,” added Denayer. “I don’t really think about it, I do what I can. Although I hope what he (Staelens) says is true, of course!
“It has been a great season for me and more than I expected. To come here and play every game has been a lot for me and to win a trophy has been even more. It has been the best year of my life because I’ve made my first professional start at club level but also for the national team.
“My father is very happy for me and it is important for me that he is here. He is always supporting me and we talk to each other about everything.
“He says some good stuff, but also is straight with me when I play bad. Lots of people can say to you that you have played well when you haven’t. But my dad can’t lie to me, he tells me the truth every time. He is always honest with me. He tells me when I haven’t played well, even though I might think I have.
“I am happy for my dad to be straight with me. He has followed me since I was young, he is the person who knows me the best. He knows what I can do. When I am bad in a game, he gives me a long speech. When I am good, it is quite short.
“Even after we won the League Cup final last month, he wasn’t too emotional about it. He just said, ‘Well done, now you need to focus on the next game’.
“I do think I have changed as a player, I have improved a lot since I joined Celtic. Here I have played for the first team while at Manchester City I played with the youths. I have so much more experience here.
“On a personal level there is more pressure on me now, more expectation. It has made me more mature.
“Of course I have surprised myself this season. When I joined Celtic I didn’t think I would play every game. But now my expectation is high.”
With hopes of securing three winners’ medals with Celtic this season having evaporated with last Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final defeat, Denayer and his team-mates regrouped with Wednesday’s 2-1 win at Dundee to remain firmly on course to lift the Premiership title.
They return to Tayside tomorrow to take on Dundee United at Tannadice. “It was very bad for us to lose last weekend and miss out on the treble,” reflected Denayer.
“Everybody wants to win the treble. It has been a long time since Celtic had done it and we were close.
“But we needed to keep our heads up and keep going. The manager took the group and said, ‘We are all disappointed, but we now need to win the league’. That is the most important thing. What is gone is gone, we can do nothing about it now.”