CELTIC manager Ronny Deila has handed his scouting staff a list of the positions he believes he needs to strengthen during the January transfer window, with an alternative spine for his side believed to be the priority at Parkhead.
There is money available for the Norwegian to spend if transfer fees are required but, leaving aside the wisdom of allowing him to make long-term decisions when his own future at the club is far from secure, it may well be that temporary deals will prove to be the answer.
If we loan in a player there has to be an option to buyRonny Deila
However, Deila has tired of quick fixes and he has made it clear than any loan signings should only be accommodated by the board if Celtic are guaranteed the option to make the arrangement permanent, providing both Deila and the player are agreeable.
Of the 17 players signed by (or for) Deila since his appointment 18 months ago, six of them – Jo Inge Berget, Mubarak Wakaso, Aleksandar Tonev, Tyler Blackett, Jason Denayer and John Guidetti – have been on short-term contracts.
The first four named failed the try-before-you-buy test but Deila would have preferred to have had the opportunity to extend the stay of the latter pair.
“If we loan in a player there has to be an option to buy,” he said. “We got in a couple of good players last year in Denayer and Guidetti but, when you lose them in the summer – when there is such a quick turnaround – it is not a positive thing going into the Champions League.
“This is maybe not a policy. However, it is an important thing. It was also there last year but sometimes you don’t get everything. But we are even more determined now.
“I have identified targets along with the scouting department and the staff. Of course, we sit down and talk about possible players. I will not tell you what positions.
“We are looking at different positions and, again, it is about finding the right one. We want to get in some quality who can do a job.”
Deila would also like to offload some fringe players, either permanently or on loan, with Derk Boerrigter, Gary Mackay-Steven, Saidy Janko and Anthony Stokes likely to fall into that category.
“This is a possibility,” he said. “If we get five players in then you can’t have 40 players in a squad. So we will see what we need, and what the players want and who would want them as well.
“But the biggest task is to make Celtic better after the winter window closes. I anticipate the squad will be stronger after January. That is an important thing for this season and the start of next season.
“Teams do not like to lose their players in the middle of the season. So this is a more difficult window. But everything is possible. We did some things last year and we did get stronger, and that is what we want to do this year.”
One player being linked with a move to Glasgow is Ivan Mocinic, the captain of HNK Rijeka, who currently trail leaders Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia’s elite division by two points.
The 22-year-old midfielder, who made his full international debut in a 3-1 victory over Russia in Moscow last month, would cost around £2.5m and his countryman, Jozo Simunovic, believes it would be money well spent.
“I don’t know him personally because he played for another team in Croatia,” the Celtic defender explained. “But I remember him on the national team when we played together from Under-17 through to Under-19 level a few years ago.
“He’s a very good player and I think he could do very well in Scotland. I know he has improved over the past few years.
“Ivan is a midfielder who can play on the left or the right. He keeps things simple but he is a very good runner and a useful all-rounder who can play at No.10 or No.6. He is a goal threat also.”
First, though, Deila must ensure that last weekend’s second Premiership defeat of the current campaign is not followed by a third against Hearts at Tynecastle this afternoon.
Celtic were woeful in losing 2-1 at home to Motherwell and a marked improvement will be required if they are to not to leave the capital empty-handed.
Hearts have failed to prevail in any of the last dozen league meetings between the clubs, losing 11 of them, but Deila is wary of the muscular threat posed by Robbie Neilson’s side.
“They are a physical team so we have to stand up to everything,” he said. “But it is about playing quickly enough, moving the ball and giving them problems.
“Hearts have had a good season. They’re a big club who had some troubles in the past but they’ve built up a new team again. They play good football. I think I saw last season that they were a top-six team but they’re now top four so they’ve done even better.
“We have met them in every cup, we have beaten them and had a draw with them at home in a game we should have won. So we have done well against Hearts and I am looking for another good performance.”
Should he have his Christmas wish granted, the travelling support may see the return of the Ronny Roar.
Deila’s habit of marking routine victories against lesser opposition with fist-pumping celebrations in front of his supporters struck many observers as cringe-inducing and it disappeared at about the same time their Europa League aspirations fell off a cliff in October. However, he stressed at the club’s training complex at Lennoxtown that the Roar has been rested, not retired.
“I haven’t felt it was right for it lately,” he said. “There hasn’t been enough to have a Ronny Roar. But it will come back. Things must turn round and that’s what we want to do. Christmas time could be the time to do it.
“You have to be satisfied yourself with what you’re doing. If you’re standing in front of supporters you have to feel ‘This is fantastic’ and good about where we are going.
“Everybody agrees there are things that can be better and we’re working really hard to get on the right track again. It would depend how I feel for it in the match and what situation we are in.
“We have had good performances and not-so-good performances recently. Overall, everybody knows we’re not happy about not going through in Europe. That’s the main thing.
“I love winning and, whoever we play against, just to win is a fantastic feeling. So it [the Roar] will come back [because] we have so much to play for. I’m looking forward to that.”