THERE is little doubt Jason Denayer has had a season to remember. However, the on-loan Celtic defender has stopped short of having a tattoo done to commemorate a season where he won the league title, League Cup and was named PFA Scotland young player of the year.
Not so Virgil Van Dijk, who has marked a successful season by getting an ink drawing on his skin. Asked where he was when he heard the news Celtic had won the league without playing on Saturday, following Dundee United’s win over Aberdeen, Denayer revealed that he was with teammates John Guidetti and Van Dijk, who, he casually mentioned, was getting a tattoo drawn onto his arm at the time.
I was with some of the players at my home and I saw on the computer.Jason Denayer
“It was a very good weekend, winning the league on Saturday and then winning the Young Player of the Year award, so I’m very happy,” Denayer said, when reflecting on a weekend that saw him receive two such welcome bursts of news.
“I was with some of the players at my home and I saw on the computer. It was a very good feeling to have won the league but it was strange to have won it without playing. I was with John Guidetti and Virgil van Dijk.
“We didn’t really celebrate because Virgil was getting a tattoo,” he added, unexpectedly. “So he couldn’t get too excited! But he was happy. There was a bit of pleasure with his pain.”
Pain and pleasure. Perhaps this is a good way of summing up the season. There was certainly some pain in the beginning, as manager Ronny Deila sought to find his feet along with several new players, Denayer among them.
Unlike his teammate Van Dijk’s tattoo, the Belgian centre-half is sadly not a permanent addition to the Celtic landscape. An on-loan signing from Manchester City, he has been recalled for pre-season training by his club. It looks very likely that he is in the last weeks of his Celtic career, something his manager admitted yesterday.
A personal award such as the one he collected on Sunday night, highlighting his consistent performances since joining in August, will only have increased Manchester City’s desire to have another look at the 19-year-old. As well as forming a very productive central defensive partnership with Van Dijk, Denayer has also scored six goals from the back. The Belgian international is happy to have helped out a manager who he knew was under pressure when he arrived, following a first Champions League qualifying elimination at the hands of Legia Warsaw.
“Of course I’m very pleased for the manager that we’ve won the league because at the start it was difficult for him and also difficult for us,” he said. “But the style he wants us to play is doing well now. We won the league and we won the League Cup, so I am happy for him.
“Every thing comes with time and the manager was new as were myself and other players, so we needed to have time to play with style he wants. That’s what we did and we did it well.”
Although he probably won’t be involved, Denayer stressed the importance of Celtic making it through to the Champions League group stage next season. Indeed, he might even meet his former team-mates there should he be included in the Manchester City squad for the 2015/16 campaign. He cited Lionel Messi’s recent observations where the Barcelona striker claimed to miss the unique properties of Celtic Park on a Champions League match night.
“Of course, I think Celtic need to be playing in the Champions League,” he said. “I don’t know if you saw quotes from Lionel Messi in the newspaper saying that he misses the atmosphere of Celtic Park in the Champions League. I think Celtic is a big club and they need to be playing in a big competition like the Champions League. That’s a big compliment from Messi because he is the best player in the world.”