Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has paid tribute to the enduring power and influence of club captain Scott Brown, stating that the 31-year-old would have walked into the Liverpool team which came agonisingly close to being Premier League champions three years ago.
Rodgers was able to select his midfield from notable players such as Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho, Joe Allen, Victor Moses and current England captain Jordan Henderson but he is convinced Brown would have forced his way into the starting 11.
He also revealed that Brown, who retired from international football earlier this season, had rebuffed opportunities to play in England.
The skipper was rested for Wednesday’s 4-0 victory over Ross County and spent the spare time wisely, attending the birth of his third, child but Rodgers insists he will return for tomorrow’s visit to Aberdeen.
“Scott looks well,” he said. “He’s a father of three now and it was nice, probably the perfect opportunity for him to be at home.
“I spoke to him a number of weeks ago, I knew his wife was expecting around this time and said to him: ‘She’s the most important thing, make sure you look after her – she does amazingly for you when you’re travelling all over the world playing and earning a living for your family. Look after her and everything else will take care of itself’.
“He’s come back fresh and ready to go again on Saturday. He trained today and he looks in great nick.”
Brown had asked to join the squad for the visit to the Highlands but Rodgers was adamant that he should stay at home.
“I’m not sure what [Brown’s wife] Lisa would have said if he’d come with us but he just doesn’t want to miss a game,” he said.
“He’s someone I’ve been so impressed with since I first met him in my house earlier on in the season. He’s really devoted himself to how I’ve wanted the team to operate, on the field and off it.
“You guys will have seen him more often than me but, if he was playing at a better level than he’s at just now, both physically and tactically, then I’d be surprised.
“The biggest compliment I can give him is that, having worked in what is supposedly the best [and] the most competitive league in the world, Scott Brown – if I look at my Liverpool team that nearly won the title – he would definitely have been in it.
“There’s no doubt about that – so that’s the level that the guy is at as a player and as a captain. You want him on your team and on your side.
“It’s the biggest accolade that I can give him. But, thankfully, he’s chosen to play nearly ten years at Celtic and still looks as strong and fit as ever.
“He’s devoting his life to football and his preparation, his diet, the training methodology, will always quicken him up, speed his game and get him thinking tactically. You saw [against Rangers] on Sunday, he was magnificent.”
Unsurprisingly, given that he had captained his country as well as his club, Brown was coveted by a number of clubs down south.
“There was interest,” said Rodgers. “I remember Harry Redknapp at Tottenham wanting to take him there; Harry told me that himself.
“There’s no doubt he’s had options where he could’ve left here. But he was happy in his life and happy here at Celtic. This is a hard place to leave.
“If money’s not the consideration – and no one can deny any player or any person the chance to consider doubling or trebling their salary – then other things come into it.
“Scott’s always been happy here and the supporters love him. They see his worth, probably more so than ever at this stage. So he can certainly retire comfortable in the knowledge that he could probably have played in that league and at the highest level.”
Celtic’s financial muscle was underlined by Rodgers’ revelation that a jet had been chartered to fly the Celtic party back from Dingwall on Wednesday.
“It was a 30-minute flight back and it was great, very comfortable and quiet,” he said. “We’re preparing well. I said to Dermot [Desmond] and Peter [Lawwell], when I had the initial conversation with them about coming, that I understand where the club is at in terms of the financial side but I said the one thing we cannot compromise on is the players’ preparation for games.
“We have to give them the best in order to be the very best. The club have been absolutely superb with that.
“Anything I have asked for and anything I have felt that we needed to change or adapt, from the very first day they have been great.”