RONNY Deila is preparing to forage for quality off-cuts in the summer transfer window as he bides his time in reshaping the Celtic squad.
So far, the Scottish champions’ new manager, who will lead his side out at BT Murrayfield for tonight’s second qualifying round tie against Icelandic champions KR Reykjavik, has made just one signing with the acquisition of previously unattached goalkeeper Craig Gordon.
But Deila is relaxed about the player recruitment budget at his disposal and accepts Celtic have to take their place in a lengthy queue behind clubs with far greater spending power. The Norwegian is also confident his existing squad are capable of taking Celtic into the lucrative group stage of the Champions League for a third consecutive season. They take a 1-0 lead into tonight’s second leg at the home of Scottish rugby in Edinburgh, with the winners facing either Legia Warsaw of Poland or League of Ireland champions St Patrick’s Athletic in the next phase. “The players who are here now are the ones who are going to take us through,” said Deila. “Maybe we can get two or three in, but the main players are here now. Nothing revolutionary is going to happen.
“We are looking for quality and that’s very hard just now, when a lot of the big clubs in the rest of the world haven’t even started pre-season.
“You have to beat clubs like Manchester City who can just buy the ones they want when they want. The biggest get their food first – then the rest of us come after. That’s the challenge we have. The longer the window goes, the bigger the opportunities get. There is more pressure on every club and they have to take decisions. So for me, quality is the word – that means someone who can go in and do something at once. But there is also quality in those who can be longer-term prospects.
“Of course, qualifying for the Champions League is very important when it comes to attracting players. That’s a huge thing and it is a big target for us.
“We work together at Celtic. I talk with [chief executive] Peter [Lawwell] and he has the same task as me – to make Celtic as good as possible without putting the club out of order economically. There’s no problem at all. It’s very easy. But you know what kind of money there is. It doesn’t compete with the biggest clubs in Europe. But it is big in Scottish terms. Of course, Celtic is a club who buys not very expensive players but wants them to progress and sell for more money.”
That is a scenario Celtic may yet face with England international goalkeeper Fraser Forster and Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk, both of whom have been linked with moves south of the border. Celtic managed to negotiate the Champions League qualifiers last year despite the sales of key players Gary Hooper and Victor Wanyama during the process.
“Yes, if we sold any of our bigger players, I would expect some of the money to be made available to me,” added Deila. “That’s the way the club has been. If players go out, we get money to do something else. It’s hard to do it right away, to go in and get your target in an hour or whatever. You have to take your time and find the right prospect. We are working hard.
“We have players we have identified and we will see if we can get the ones we want.
“I’m confident the current squad can get us to the group stage. A lot of them have been there and done it before. But it’s not exactly the same, because we have lost Georgios Samaras, while Scott Brown and James Forrest are out injured for these big games.
“But other players have to take steps and get us into the Champions League.”
Celtic have been linked with a loan move for Villarreal’s Mexican winger Javier Aquino. But Deila, who declined to comment on individual names, would prefer more permanent signings.
“Loan deals are a possibility but they are not ideal,” he said. “You don’t want to develop other clubs’ talent and not get any money for it. The important thing is to get someone who will make the team much better. So it could be older players who there is no future value in but who can use their experience and skills to help us. So that’s another opportunity.”
Irish striker Anthony Stokes will be absent tonight because of a pulled muscle sustained in Saturday’s friendly away to Dynamo Dresden, but Deila expects first leg scorer Kris Commons to recover from a thigh injury in time.