RONNY DEILA has revealed he has not given up hope of beating a host of European football’s top clubs to the signing of Norwegian prodigy Martin Odegaard.
The Celtic manager insists he has “control of the situation” as the much-coveted attacking midfielder weighs up his options which already include Real Madrid, Manchester United and Liverpool.
Deila played a pivotal role in Odegaard’s emergence as one of the hottest properties in the game when he handed him his first-team debut for Stromsgodset in Norway earlier this year at the age of 15.
Odegaard has continued to flourish since Deila left Stromsgodset for Celtic and in September he became the youngest ever player to feature in a Uefa European Championship match when he played in Norway’s 2-1 win over Bulgaria.
He will celebrate his 16th birthday on 17 December and is spending the current winter shutdown of Norwegian football touring many of his suitors around Europe.
Odegaard has been spending time this week with Liverpool, just one of more than 20 clubs Deila says are attempting to sign him.
While admitting Celtic have to take their place in a lengthy queue, Deila also feels the Scottish champions could yet benefit if Odegaard opts for a club where he may have a faster route into regular first-team football.
“Martin is a very good player but we have to stand in line,” said Deila. “There are 20 clubs, maybe more, who want him. He has been to clubs all over Europe – to Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and now Liverpool.
“Paris St Germain also want him but he hasn’t had time to visit them yet, so there is some hard competition. I have control over that situation, I know what is happening there. This is more about his choices. What is his thinking now? Is it, go to a big club and try to break in there and go through that road, or go to a smaller club in not such a good league but it makes it easier to get into the first team?
“It’s very hard to say if he is good enough to go straight into the Celtic first team now. He’s only 15 years old and will be 16 this month. But he is very special and every time he gets to a new level, he takes his chance. His attitude is great – he always wants to learn and he listens to everything you say. He’s special.
“I know what’s happening with him. He lives in the town where my kids live in Norway and I know a lot of people there. We’ll see if there are possibilities to get him. Of course, we will try it. But it’s a very hard competition.”
If one of the major Spanish, German or English clubs signs Odegaard, it is possible they could initially loan him out elsewhere. But Deila has reservations about Celtic taking advantage of that position.
“You never know but we want to have players that we will get something for in the future if we develop them,” added Deila.
“You can’t have too many players from other clubs. We need to have players who we can earn money on or who can stay at our club.
“I think it is up to Martin how much he costs, because he only has one year left on his contract. If he chooses Real Madrid, it would be what they want to pay. If he chooses Celtic, then there are different prices. But I think it’s important Stromsgodset get money back for him.”
Deila, meanwhile, has been impressed by the standard of his own young players at Celtic. Earlier this week, he watched them crush Rangers 6-1 at Murray Park in an SPFL under-20 development league fixture.
“There is some very young talent there, players born in 1996 or 1997,” said Deila. “I was very pleased with what I saw. It is up to us now to find the right way to bring them to the first team through good training. We need to let the best players train with the first team to learn what they need.
“Some of them have already played some first-team games – Eoghan O’Connell, Darnell Fisher, Liam Henderson and Filip Twardzik. Filip has had some injuries but he had a great game against Rangers.
“The team had a very good attitude, about 80 per cent possession and scored six goals.”
The trip to Murray Park was Deila’s first involvement of any kind with Celtic’s troubled Old Firm rivals but, after six months in Scottish football, he revealed has yet to encounter Rangers manager Ally McCoist.
“I don’t know if he was at the game,” said Deila. “I haven’t met him.”