As the clock ticks down on the January window, Rodgers has outlined the difficulties faced by the Scottish champions as they try to strengthen their squad for the second half of the season.
The Celtic manager remains hopeful of making further recruits before tomorrow’s midnight deadline, with Borussia Dortmund’s out of favour Jeremy Toljan emerging as a potential solution to his search for a new right-back. The 24-year-old moved to Dortmund from Hoffenheim for £6.3 million in 2017 and is under contract at the Bundesliga leaders until 2022. But Toljan has not featured in the Dortmund first team this season and is available on loan.
Rodgers’ previous observations of Celtic’s failure to improve their squad over a number of transfer windows have fuelled a growing perception he is at odds with chief executive Peter Lawwell and the club’s board over their recruitment strategy. But as he looks to get at least one more deal over the line this month, Rodgers insists there are a number of factors which contribute to any failure to secure the standard of signing targets he identifies.
“Of course, you find the player and, whether fair or not, I’m not saying then it goes to Peter and he doesn’t do it,” said Rodgers. “That’s not really the case. Because sometimes it changes from an agent’s perspective or a club’s perspective.
“You’ve maybe agreed on something initially and then it changes. It’s a whole, difficult, complex dynamic. But it’s about trying to find the players you can bring in. That’s always the challenge.
“The climate and the financial side of the game elsewhere, in Europe and down south in both the Premier League and Championship, is making it really difficult.
“You get Championship clubs who will pay players £50,000 a week. That’s impossible for us to compete with.
“You learn to try and have patience in the window when you can. At the same time, you want to push to progress. I’ve always tried to be philosophical about it, without getting too dragged down by it. I go back to the players you can afford to bring in and then trying to make them better.
“The work has been ongoing this month and we are hopeful we can do something. It’s very difficult, but it has been pressing for quite some time.
“The club have every right to plan forward. There are lots of young players here now who are more for the future. But we have to win games now and progress now, so hopefully we can do that.
“Up here, January is a very pressurised window, especially if you are going for a title after which you are straight into Champions League qualifiers in the June. So the focus is really on you this month to get some players in.
“But you can only really get them in if they are available. I have been in contact with some Premier League managers, building up to January, and they just have no interest in letting out any of their players this month because they can’t replace them.
“If you look at a lot of the players we have here, they have got improved contracts and become better players. That’s brilliant for them and the club because they keep improving.
“To bring in players over the top of them, that costs money. That’s the Catch 22 situation. There is a squad here who have been highly successful but you always have to evolve and the best time to do that is when you are succeeding. It’s a challenge but most Scottish teams will find that.
“To bring in a big player on a big salary is very difficult. There is a level you can’t reach without putting your club at huge risk. That’s just the reality of where it’s at.”
Rodgers has succeeded in strengthening his attacking options this month with the signings of loan duo Oliver Burke and Timothy Weah alongside the £2 million capture of Ivory Coast international striker Vakoun Issouf Bayo. Celtic are also close to clinching a £1.5m deal for Ukrainian winger Maryan Shved from Karpaty Lviv, although the 21-year-old is a longer term first team prospect and will be loaned out immediately.
The chance to move six points clear of Rangers and Kilmarnock at the top of the Premiership table beckons for Celtic tonight when they entertain St Johnstone in the game in hand they have held over their title rivals for some weeks.
“For us, we are pretty calm about it,” said Rodgers. “In my first season here, there was a gap and probably not that intensity about it. Last season, there was a gap again but this year it’s closer. That’s great for the league. It shows the other teams have improved. It doesn’t mean we’ve got worse. OK, we maybe lost certain key players but we are still playing at a really good level. If we win on Wednesday, we go six points clear with a good goal difference. Our mantra has always been to concentrate on the next game.”
l Celtic midfielder Ewan Henderson has signed a new long-term contract.
The 18-year-old has extended his deal to the summer of 2022, less than a week after marking his first appearance of the season with an assist against St Mirren. The midfielder, brother of former Celtic and current Hellas Verona player Liam Henderson, made his debut with a late substitute appearance against Kilmarnock in May last year.