CELTIC manager Ronny Deila has dismissed the prospect of off-loading Stefan Scepovic in next month’s transfer window and insists the struggling Serbian international striker will eventually come good for the Scottish champions.
Scepovic was the only player Celtic paid a transfer fee for during the last window, spending £2.3 million to recruit him from Spanish club Sporting Gijon on a four-year contract.
But the 24-year-old has toiled badly to vindicate that investment so far, scoring only twice in ten appearances for Celtic. Scepovic has only been in Deila’s starting line-up on five occasions and was not even among the substitutes for Sunday’s Scottish Cup fourth-round win over Hearts at Tynecastle.
Scepovic has been completely overshadowed by Swedish international striker John Guidetti, one of five loan signings Deila made during the summer transfer window.
Guidetti has scored 11 goals in 12 appearances for Celtic so far and the club are keen to try and secure him on a permanent deal from Manchester City next month. Scepovic has also fallen behind Leigh Griffiths in the pecking order of Celtic strikers over the last few weeks. He has been linked with a return to Spain on loan in January with La Liga outfit Levante reportedly keen to add him to their squad as they battle against relegation.
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But Deila is adamant Scepovic remains firmly part of his plans at Celtic and expects the player to start making a bigger impact in the coming months.
“Leaving on loan is not an option for Stefan,” said Deila. “I’m not interested in that. Stefan has a future here. His chance will come.
“It’s been tough competition for him here so far. But, again, every player has been through tough times. Leigh Griffiths has been through tough times and we’ve been working hard with him. Now he’s being paid for all the hard work he’s done by getting game time.
“If you see players who you bring in from southern Europe to Britain, it takes time for them to settle. Sometimes at least six months to get into the environment and understand it. Stefan will come, though. Of course he is impatient, he wants things to happen now. But he has to adapt to the way we play and train. But his chances will come. With him, or Leigh, or the other players, you have to take your chance when you get it.
“You move to a new country, with a new language and new people. It takes time. Everything is new and then you add the football. Spanish football is different to here. It can be like another game. Then there is the training and getting to know the other people around the club and feeling safe. It takes time to adapt.
“It was the same for me when I joined the club. I had to know everyone and wondered where to start. It’s the same for players and we have to make the environment as clear as possible for people and also make it warm.”
Scepovic, who scored 23 goals for Sporting Gijon in the Spanish second-tier last season, has had an itinerant career so far which has taken in Serbia, Belgium, Israel, Poland, Italy, Spain and Scotland. His permanent moves from OFK Belgrade to Bruges, Hapoel Acre, Partizan Belgrade, Sporting Gijon and Celtic have been punctuated by loan spells at Mladi Radnik, Sopot, Sampdoria, Kortrijk and Ashdod.
“He was loaned out a lot in the past because he needed experience,” added Deila. “But this is different now, because he was sold to us.
“Sporting Gijon really wanted him to stay in Spain with them, but we wanted him and bought him. It is way too early to talk about whether it has been good or not. We will see after the season is over.”
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