CELTIC manager Brendan Rodgers believes the transfer market will “explode” with enticing possibilities to add to his squad if they qualify for the group stage of the Champions League tomorrow night.
But Rodgers has played down suggestions of the Scottish champions moving for a marquee signing such as Bastian Schweinsteiger or Xavi, insisting any new recruits must retain the fitness and athleticism necessary to play in his system.
Celtic flew out to Israel yesterday ahead of the second leg of their Champions League play-off round tie against Hapoel Beer-Sheva, where they will kick off with a 5-2 lead from last Wednesday’s thrilling first instalment in Glasgow.
On the verge of reaching the prestigious group stage for the first time in three years, Celtic will land a jackpot of around £20 million if Rodgers’ team finish the job successfully.
It will strengthen Rodgers’ hand in the remaining ten days of the current transfer window, providing both extra spending power and greater incentive for prospective targets to join Celtic.
“The market explodes, the whole thing explodes when you make the Champions League,” said Rodgers. “But we have to get there first. That’s our message. We’ve put ourselves in a brilliant position. But we are focused. If we can get through, there will be a bit of work to do between then and when the market shuts.”
That work, however, is unlikely to include rumoured moves for out of favour 32-year-old Manchester United midfielder Schweinsteiger, pictured below, or 36-year-old former Barcelona playmaker Xavi who is currently with Qatari club Al Sadd.
“I just need the best player,” added Rodgers. “It doesn’t have to be a marquee signing. We have already brought in some really top talents who have come in and excited the supporters.
“I don’t need a marquee signing that can’t run. I can get you a marquee signing, but they’ve got to be able to press and they’ve got to be able to run.
“For me, it’s never been about the name. But of course if the name is big and he can play, then great, but for me it’s about having the right profile of player who can come in. No matter the age, they have to be hungry in every single game and every training session and that’s what I always look for.
“I think as long as they maintain the hunger and the will, because this is a team that you have to be able to run in. You have to be athletic, you have to be able to press. You can’t run forward if you can’t run back, that’s one of my rules for a team.
“The athleticism, the mobility, the hunger and the intensity has to be there and they have to be leading their life right. If that’s a big name, great, and if we can do it, great, but if not we just get the best possible player that we can.”
Celtic have been boosted by the return from injury of on-loan Manchester City winger Patrick Roberts who travelled with the squad yesterday.
Right-back Mikael Lustig, who missed Saturday’s 4-2 Premiership win at St Johnstone, is also back and expected to play tomorrow.