KRIS Commons will be a significant loss if he leaves Celtic this month, but the players who remain should have confidence in their ability to win the title without him, Jason Denayer said after Saturday’s 2-0 win at Hamilton.
Commons threw his boots into the crowd at the end of the match in an apparent sign of his imminent departure. Manager Ronny Deila later said that the 31-year-old midfielder is going nowhere during this transfer window, but it remains to be seen if that firm line is tested by an attractive financial offer.
Amid an impasse over a new contract, Commons has been linked with a move to Bolton, managed by former Parkhead manager Neil Lennon. Deila denied hearing anything from Bolton and joked when asked about the player’s boots gesture, saying “he needs to get some new ones”. However, he went on to stress that Commons is going nowhere in the transfer window and claimed he would have the last say in the decision.
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“He will not go,” said Deila. “I have said many times before, he will not go. We are going to keep all the players we have here for the rest of the season. He is going to stay. It is not easy to replace Kris Commons. It will not be taken out of my hands. It is not money in this, this is a decision we will take together. So he needs new boots. It is going to be expensive for him.”
On-loan defender Denayer, restored to the back four in place of Efe Ambrose, said he was unsure how the situation would be resolved. “I don’t know if he is away, but he is a very good player and it is like every good player: if he goes it is difficult for the team,” the Belgian teenager said. “He is one of the senior players with a lot of experience, so he knows what he is doing and he can help all the team.
“If he goes, I think we have a very good coach, so, though it will be difficult, someone will have to take his place. We have no choice. If he goes, we will have to play our best and keep going. The quality is there in the group.”
Although they are now just two points behind Aberdeen with two games in hand, Celtic are still some way short of the commanding position they were widely expected to be in by this stage of the season. But Denayer felt able to put a positive spin on the state of the league table, saying it motivated him and his team-mates. “There is an excitement. It is now really competitive. We are not leading by as many points as is normal, but we are now second and it is really competitive. It is good for the league. We have to play every game at the maximum level, but if we were leading by a number of points we would not have to. But now we have to play at 100 per cent.”
Asked if he would still relish that excitement if the league race was still undecided by late April, he added: “No, that would be too long.”
Deila hopes that Denayer, who is just back from a foot injury, will extend his loan from Manchester City by another year. But the 19-year-old said it was too early to plan that far ahead.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I need to wait until the end of the season and see what happens. I must concentrate on the matches. There are a lot of things in my head at the moment and I just need to concentrate on playing games.
“The club [Manchester City] has said I am doing well here, but the objective in the Premier League in England for City is different and is at a much higher level. So I need to do more again, but we will see at the end of the season what happens.”
Deila denied any interest in Wigan midfielder Shaun Maloney, a former Celtic player but admitted that Maccabi Tel Aviv winger Tal Ben Haim was a target. He said: “He is one of many names we are talking about, but there is a long way from there to a signing.”
The Norwegian has captured Dundee United winger Gary Mackay-Steven on a pre-contract agreement, which will see the 24-year-old arrive in the summer.
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