RONNY Deila admits it is hard to blood youngsters like Callum MacGregor and make the Champions League - but he hopes Celtic can one day emulate Ajax and Barcelona and fill their team with home-grown talent.
McGregor continued to grasp his opportunity by netting in Celtic’s 1-1 Champions League play-off first-leg draw against Maribor on Wednesday - his third away goal in Europe this season.
The 21-year-old midfielder has shot to prominence following a successful loan spell at Notts County, where he netted 14 goals for the Sky Bet League One side.
And Deila believes his breakthrough can serve as an example.
“I didn’t know anything about him before we started training,” the Norwegian said.
“At the beginning he was just one of many. But he performed in the matches when he got a chance, and after that he has been good enough to play.
“That’s the important thing for other players in the squad as well, you have to do everything you can every day for when you get a chance, and use that well.
“Then you will develop and then you will get your chances.
“He has played well all the time so that’s why he is playing - because he is performing. He is doing it in every game.
“He is a good player and he knows what he is doing. I’m really looking forward to working further with him because he is a lot to develop as well. He’s a young talent and he’s a Celtic boy, that’s important.
“It’s important to get Scottish players, players who have come through the youth, but it’s very hard as well, because the level you are asked to be at, Champions League, is unbelievably hard.
“It’s very hard to have only Celtic boys in the team. Then I don’t think we will be Champions League.
“But hopefully in the future hopefully we can go more the way like Ajax and Barcelona, if we can work very well with the academy and find the same direction, I think things will happen.”
McGregor’s performances were possibly one of the reasons why Kris Commons sat on the bench throughout the 90 minutes in Slovenia, but Deila is sure last season’s double Scottish player of the year will work to get his place back.
Deila said: “I talked with him before I took him out the team. Kris is a team player and he understands it’s not that he is playing badly, we just chose another formation. So there was no problem.”
One player who Deila believes was playing below par is Virgil van Dijk.
The former Stromsgodset boss feels the 23-year-old Dutchman was adversely affected by transfer speculation.
But, despite fresh reports that Newcastle are preparing an £8million swoop, Deila believes the centre-back has come through the blip.
“What we have been focused on is getting Virgil performing at the top level because we think he has been a little down at the beginning of the season,” he said.
“The last two weeks he has been fantastic and is up at the level that we want him.
“He is fit now, much fitter than he was at the end of last season, and when he is performing he will do well for Celtic, and will also get opportunities if that’s what is right for him.
“But I think now it’s good to be here, hope for the Champions League, and then he can develop even more at Celtic.”
Deila was famed for developing young players in Norway and he feels it was only natural Van Dijk became distracted.
“I think every player does that, especially when he’s young,” he said.
“I have been through those periods so many times with players, especially young players.
“It’s hard because you can tell them what is happening and that they are losing focus, but they have to understand it themselves.
“That’s something you have to go through. But Virgil has been fantastic in the last games and is just a fantastic football player.”
Meanwhile, Deila admitted interest in Cardiff midfielder Kim Bo-kyung as he vowed to continue trying to bring players in, as a loan move for Rubin Kazan winger Mubarak Wakaso nears completion.
“That’s a guy we have been talking about but we haven’t done anything concrete,” he said.
“It’s not about numbers, it’s about quality. If we can get players who can make the team and the squad better, it could be two or three players. But if we don’t find that, it could be zero.”
Deila vowed to use his squad to the full when Celtic face Scottish Premiership leaders Inverness in the Highlands on Saturday, with Tuesday’s second leg against Maribor in mind.
“We have a big squad and we have to use it,” Deila said. “That’s the big advantage we have at Celtic, we have 25 players who can play top level, and that’s something we have to use.”