MARIBOR midfielder Agim Ibraimi has revealed he would still consider a move to Celtic despite having helped eliminate them from the Champions League.
The 25-year-old playmaker, an influential performer in the Slovenian champions’ 1-0 win at Celtic Park on Tuesday night, has been one of the Parkhead club’s signing targets during the current transfer window.
Maribor moved to head off Celtic’s interest by agreeing a new two-year contract with their prize asset shortly before the teams drew 1-1 in the first leg of the Champions League play-off round tie last week. But Ibraimi has refused to close the door on revived interest before Monday night’s transfer deadline.
“I don’t know what will happen now,” said the Macedonian international. “We are heading for the Champions League and I can’t say much about this.
“These are things for directors and managers to discuss. You know how it works – first it goes in the newspaper and then the player finds out about the move.
“I signed a new two-year contract ten days ago, but you never know – everything could still change. The Celtic fans were incredible on Tuesday night and if I got another chance, then I would have to think about it.
“But Maribor is now in the Champions League and I have never played at that level before. This is a big opportunity for us and I think that as things are right now, I will play with Maribor in the Champions League.
“There are people who deal with this at the club and I simply concentrate on the games. Normally it’s good when another club is interested in signing you, but I had to stay focused on Maribor and the Champions League.
“I heard about Celtic’s interest before the first leg. I received a call but I asked not to talk about a transfer until after the games had taken place. I don’t want to take any personal calls on transfers, though. That’s for people at the club, my agent and directors to deal with.”
Slovenian football’s Player of the Year two seasons ago, Ibraimi spent last season on loan to Cagliari in Italy but insists he is not agitating for another move to a bigger club.
“I played in Turkey before and then I was with Cagliari,” he said. “I’ve had the pressures before. I don’t want to play football just for money – I want to enjoy my football.”
Maribor go into the Champions League group stage draw for only the second time in their history today and for the first time since 1999.
“They called that Maribor team the golden generation so maybe we are the diamond generation,” smiled Ibraimi.
“It is amazing for us to get through the play-off tie. We knew Celtic had great players but we analysed things very well with our coach before the game.
“We knew they wanted to go down the touchline with wingers and the full-backs so we wanted to have confidence and play the ball on the ground and get in behind them.
“We created many good positions. Celtic is a strong team and I must congratulate their fans for the atmosphere created but also our fans for playing their part.
“We said before the game that because of the euphoria of the crowd, Celtic would have to score early. If they didn’t, then the fans would create unbelievable pressure. This is how it turned out. They maybe thought it was going to be easy but we played very well and also had some luck.
“We said we would attack to the max in the last 15 minutes and what would be would be. It was not really an attacking position as we only had three players in the box, but Tavares scored a very good goal.”