IT wasn’t just Moussa Dembele’s increasingly impressive goals return which ratcheted up a couple of notches as he helped Celtic go toe-to-toe with Manchester City in Wednesday night’s epic Champions League encounter.
As far as Brendan Rodgers is concerned, you can already add a couple of noughts to the value of a player the Celtic manager shrewdly sourced from Fulham for a fee of just £500,000 in the summer.
Not that Rodgers is in any hurry to see Dembele featuring in what many already believe will inevitably be a Scottish transfer record move away from the Scottish champions.
In fact, he insists there is “no chance” of the 20-year-old being sold before he has plied his trade with Celtic for at least the bulk of the four-year deal he signed when he arrived from Fulham.
Rodgers is equally certain that talk of Dembele already being worth around £15 million on the back of his eye-catching performances in high profile matches for Celtic is seriously undervaluing the exciting French striker.
“Are you saying £15 million?,” said Rodgers. “That’s for his left toe. His value is what someone will pay for him.
“If he can show up like that in the big games, that’s your value. There’s no chance [of him moving in the next two or three years].
“The reinforcement of what he is doing now is why he came to Celtic, which is about development.
“He could have gone to other big clubs in England or Europe but he came here because he is happy to work and learn. He is loving life at Celtic.”
Rodgers sees similarities between Dembele and former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba and is certain the new hero of the Celtic support can go on to enjoy every bit as successful a career as the Ivorian legend.
“There’s no doubt about it. I worked with Didier at Chelsea and I think Moussa is of that ilk. Didier came into Chelsea at 24 or something like that. This boy’s just turned 20. He’s still a baby. But he’s tough. You cans see on nights such as Wednesday that he is a big reference for the team.
“What I see in Moussa is that he’s a big game player. He really comes alive in the big games. He has a belief. On the day he signed for Celtic, he said at his media conference that he wanted to be the world’s best players. So we shall see. He is making nice strides, isn’t he? There is still a way to go for him. I think he is a boy who can get to the top but there are some things to work upon yet.
“If I look at my history as a coach – without being arrogant – I develop players who naturally move on, but the focus is always on the collective.
“The great thing about Moussa’s situation is that there was a strategy behind him coming here in the beginning and that was through the cleverness of his agent and the responsibility and maturity of the player.
“As a boy just turned 20 to perform like that against a top team like Manchester City shows you the potential that is there. But he knows that to maximise his potential he needs to learn, he needs to develop, he needs to develop his runs, his set-up play and tactical idea of the game. And can he do that then at a huge club? That was the start point for him.
“He knows his journey. He knows where he’s at and he knows that, in two or three years’ time, if he develops how he can, or how we think he can, the market is there.”
Amid the justified plaudits Celtic received for the level of their performance against Manchester City, a return of just one point from their first two games in Group C has hardly enhanced their prospects of a top-two finish and qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League.
Beating Borussia Monchengladbach, whom they now face home and away in the next two rounds of fixtures, to third place in the group and the not insignificant consolation prize of Europa League football after Christmas remains the most realistic ambition for Rodgers’s side.
But the manager is determined to correct the wretched away form which has so often undermined Celtic in the competition down the years, most recently and startlingly illustrated by their 7-0 defeat in Barcelona on matchday one.
He believes it should be possible to replicate the vibrancy they showed at home to Manchester City when they are on their travels.
“There’s no doubt that’s been the criticism of Celtic as a whole over a number of years,” said Rodgers. “How do you take that intensity of that performance level into away games? There’s no doubt that the crowd at Celtic Park are a huge influence for us.
“But one of my goals over the coming seasons is to make us a force both domestically and in Europe and particularly on the road. If we’re going to achieve great things, we have to be able to do that.
“It’s how we train. First and foremost, the players are super fit. Out methods and how we work is based around maximising performance from the team. We have a programme of training that allows them to be at an optimal level when they get to the games.
“Obviously we’ve had a lot of games but if you look over the course of the period that we’ve been here, fundamentally how we set up is to be aggressive in our pressing and everything else follows from that.
“It takes great courage and bravery to go into the magnitude of that game against a team like City that has blown teams away this season. To really impose that style shows a great sense of belief from the players’ perspective.
“I said when I first came in, the hallmark of this team is how it starts games. How you can impose your style on a team – and it doesn’t matter who it is. They have good players if you let them. If you knew you were going to get two yards every time you play football, you could probably play in the Scottish Premiership. But if someone’s right up at you and can touch you and can press, it’s a different story.
“Are we further ahead at this stage than I thought we would be? Not really. There are areas of the pitch where I know we still need certain profiles of players. We weren’t able to get them during the last transfer window, but that was only the first window for us.
“I have loved working with the group of players we have here right now. They seem to enjoy the methods of how we ask them to work. They are progressing very well but there is still a long way to go.”