CELTIC manager Ronny Deila has ruled out a summer sale of key title-winning players and insists he has the full backing of club chief executive Peter Lawwell in resisting any offers from English Premier League clubs.
Norwegian midfielder Stefan Johansen and Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk have been the subject of most speculation over a possible exit from the Scottish champions, while Israeli midfielder Nir Bitton and Scotland utility man Charlie Mulgrew have also been linked with close- season moves.
Celtic have regularly cashed in on their biggest assets in recent years, with Gary Hooper, Victor Wanyama and Fraser Forster among those who have raked in significant sums for the Parkhead coffers in the past two seasons. Deila has confirmed that Belgian defender Jason Denayer will be returning to his parent club, Manchester City, despite Celtic’s hopes of extending his successful stay with them. He also cast doubt on the future of Swedish striker John Guidetti, also on loan from Manchester City, by revealing his plans for next season do not include him.
But the Norwegian is determined to retain the services of his leading under-contract players for his bid to reach the Champions League group stage.
“We don’t need to sell them and we don’t want to sell them,” said Deila. “So we are going to keep them here. We want to get into the Champions League.
“Stefan Johansen has never been in the Champions League, while Virgil van Dijk needs a very good Champions League campaign. If he does well there, it is easy for him to get to the big clubs one day.
We don’t need to sell them and we don’t want to sell themRonny Deila
“If a club offers £7 million or £8 million, I would say ‘No’ because we would get that for him at Christmas, maybe more. We’d get much more money from being in the Champions League than from losing one of our best players, so it’s an easy thing to talk about.
“What is the difference between me and Peter Lawwell on that? Of course he agrees with me. He would rather go to the Champions League than sell Virgil van Dijk.
“I know the pressure of trying to get to the Champions League. We both want to get there, Peter and me. We have the same interests. We want to get big moments for the players and the fans and they come from the Champions League. The Champions League is the best thing for the club. Okay, we might not qualify and then we have to take some decisions about players. But we can’t do it before.”
A new central defender will be on Deila’s shopping list this summer as PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year Denayer returns to fight for first-team football at Manchester City.
“It’s important to keep Virgil because it would be a big challenge if we lost both him and Jason,” added Deila. “That’s something we don’t want. You never know what can happen, but Jason is definitely going back to City for pre-season.”
Deila has dismissed reports linking the currently injured Mulgrew with newly-promoted English Championship winners Bournemouth and in-form Bitton with Belgian club Bruges.
“I don’t know why anyone would think Charlie wasn’t wanted here anymore,” said Deila. “He is an important player here and he’s going to stay here. We have a hope that he can maybe play a game next week. He has trained now for four of five weeks – feeling 95 per cent – but we want him 100 per