Brendan Rodgers believes that the example set by Moussa Dembele at Celtic will help him to recruit more of European football’s brightest young talents.
Dembele scored the 16th goal of his first season at Celtic when he struck the equaliser from the penalty spot in the 1-1 draw at Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League on Tuesday night.
The 20-year-old French striker, signed from Fulham for a training compensation fee of just £500,000 in the summer, is now being closely monitored by a host of leading English Premier League clubs.
Celtic manager Rodgers is convinced he can find players of similar talent and potential as Dembele in future transfer windows and persuade them to forego more lucrative contracts elsewhere in order to maximise their development with regular first team football in Scotland instead.
“There are other players like Moussa out there,” said Rodgers. “That is the notion that I have in terms of looking at building a structure at Celtic that allows more of them to come here.
Moussa is a great catalyst for it if you are an agent now, and I have had a number of conversations where people now see his example. It really has lit up their eyes to what the possibilities are.
“Here is a guy who was a talent but he was playing in the Championship in England and now he is one of the most coveted strikers – never mind just young strikers – in Europe, and his platform is here in Scotland.
“He is a great advertisement for what we are trying to do and he is enjoying his time here. There is talent like him out there. It is about getting the right ones at the right time.”
Rodgers remains confident Celtic can hold on to Dembele for the bulk of the four-year contract he signed in June, despite the growing interest in the player who has the potential to command a huge fee .
“It depends on the player and the time.” said Rodgers. “When they sign a deal for four years I hope they can be here for four years.
“But if you get a big offer after two or three years, then that’s what happens. I think the minimum for Moussa in his development would be to be here for two years at least. That would set him up very, very well if he was to move.
“He’s very mature for a 20-year-old. His career is very much mapped out in his mind. He left Fulham and could have gone to most clubs in Europe but he came here for a reason.
“That’s probably part of a long-term plan for him. It’s not about money, although he has a good salary here – he could have earned triple or four times that somewhere else.
“He knew he needed to play and learn and whilst he’s in that mindset he will always make an educated decision.
“He’s at a very early stage, but he’s a special talent. For a modern-day striker to have that power, pace and touch at his age is special. What he also has is a belief.
“I don’t need to convince him he’s good enough to play at that level. I can help him tactically, but he already believes he can play at that level and that’s half the battle. He produces in the big games. He’s a big game player and my experience of these players is that they have that extra bit of belief.
“He’s still developing and learning and I wouldn’t want to label him right now in the same way that I don’t want to put a ceiling on what he can achieve. He can go as far as he wants.”