CELTIC will not wait forever for a decision from John Guidetti on his future, manager Ronny Deila has stressed, and are prepared to look beyond the Swede should his situation remain up in the air come the end of the January transfer window.
The talks over a deal to keep the 22-year-old striker in Scotland beyond the end of his year-long loan deal have become interminable. It is more than a month since Celtic agreed a transfer fee with his parent club Manchester City, believed to be in the region of £2 million. Entering the remaining six months of his City deal, Guidetti could sign a pre-contract with any club and seems in no rush to commit himself to the Scottish champions.
Deila, however, is now giving the first hints that Celtic are not pinning all their hopes on the brash frontman, who hasn’t scored in almost two months, having netted 11 goals in his first ten appearances for the club.
“Celtic also has options, it’s not all one-way,” said Deila. “We have to work to get Guidetti, but he also has to be happy that we want him. It works two ways always. Playing at Celtic is a big thing and you can see that with other players who want to play for us. We have to look at different options if it doesn’t happen, but, hopefully, it happens and I’m positive we can do it.
“Do I have other options? Yes, but anyway John is going to be here until the end of the season, so it’s not like we are losing him on 1 February.”
Celtic yesterday moved to tie-up Dundee United winger Gary Mackay-Steven, and Deila has suggested they would consider discussing a fee with the Tayside club that would allow the 24-year-old to move in the current window, although there is no chance of them meeting the £250,000 price mooted this week.
In further developments, it is understood Celtic could be interested in attracting former player Shaun Maloney on a pre-contract, following the collapse of the Wigan forward’s move to Leicester City. The Scotland internationalist, in the final six months of his contract with the Championship club, has let it be known that he would consider a third spell at Celtic Park.
On-field matters will return to centre stage for Celtic this lunchtime when they face a trip to fifth-place Hamilton for their first Premiership encounter in just under a fortnight. As Deila’s side were sunning themselves and losing friendlies to PSV Eindhoven and Sparta Prague in Gran Canaria across this past week – as the only top-flight club that requested a fixture postponement to provide them with a mini-winter break – Aberdeen moved four points above the them in the league table, having now played two games more.
Celtic defender Adam Matthews believes the change of scene can offer benefits to his team. However, the fact the domestic scene they have returned to has changed, with the Pittodrie side proving themselves the first genuine contenders in three years courtesy of an historic eight straight league wins, will not bring an extra edge to Celtic’s play for one simple reason, according to the Welshman.
“We always try to win so nothing has changed. The pressure is more now simply because we’re second and if we don’t win we slip further back,” Matthews said. “I think the last few years we have managed to keep our focus, even if we have been quite far ahead. We want to win every game and always have that mindset. We’re second in the table right now but we know that if we win our games in hand we go top again. That’s a pressure but it’s one we like.”
There was little not to like about the week off from competitive football that removed Celtic from the Scottish winter for nine days as far as the 22-year-old was concerned. “Given the games we played – especially around Christmas – it was nice to get away. Obviously we played a couple of friendlies and, while it would have been nice to win them, the main thing was the pressure was off. Our aim is for Hamilton and we looked really switched on in the training we’ve done since getting home.
“Aberdeen and the rest have now played more league games and are ahead so the pressure is on us to win the matches we have in hand. I’m not sure who has gained an advantage from the last week – all I know is that it was good to get away.”
For Matthews, who faces competition from a fit-again Mikael Lustig, Darnell Fisher and even Efe Ambrose for the right-back berth, it has also been good to get back to the form that had made him a central performer for Celtic throughout the two seasons that followed his move under freedom of contract from Cardiff City in the summer of 2011. A hamstring problem suffered against Juventus in February 2013 was the beginning of an injury period that included an extended spell on the sidelines after a shoulder operation.
“It’s been a difficult 18 months, but I feel fit and it’s the best I’ve felt since I picked up that hamstring injury against Juventus. “Every footballer knows you’re going to get injured and will take a bit of time to get back in. It was unfortunate that when I came back from my hamstring I did my shoulder and was out for another four months. I had two quite big injuries that took me out the game for six months. That’s a long time to be out and it’s taken me a while to get back. But the last few games before the break I was getting back to where I want to be and now I hope to kick on and help the team.”
Despite being constantly linked with a return to first club, Cardiff, and more recently with a move to link up again with now Bolton Wanderers manager Neil Lennon, Matthews maintains he wants to keep pushing on at Celtic. “I’ve enjoyed it since I first walked in the door and everyone’s made me feel welcome. I’m very happy, I love the city and the fans have been brilliant with me,” he said.
“We’ve got three or four good right-backs at the club and that helps push you to try to be better. I’ve heard nothing from my agent about clubs interested in me, it’s just talk. I’m 100 per cent focussed on Celtic. I’ve seen the stuff about Cardiff and I think nothing of it.”