Celtic eye long-term deal for Stefan Johansen

CELTIC manager Ronny Deila has admitted he would rather tie Stefan Johansen up on a longer-term contract rather than risk losing the influential midfielder.

Celtic manager Ronny Deila, right, speaks with Stefan Johansen. Picture: SNS
Celtic manager Ronny Deila, right, speaks with Stefan Johansen. Picture: SNS

The Norwegian has been one of the club’s top performers this season and those displays have attracted interest from Bundesliga sides but with two years left on his contract his countryman doesn’t want to see the 24-year-old going anywhere. “We would rather extend his contract than sell him,” said the Parkhead manager. “That is something we are looking at. We want to keep him for a long period. He has the values we are looking for, he has the skills we are looking for, he is happy here and we are happy with him, so that is something we hopefully can do. We have some young, good players and Stefan is one of them. We want to have consistency in our team and he is one of those we really want to keep.”

Deila has no such desire to hang on to players who have hung around the periphery, unable to force their way into the team. Some are on loan and will be allowed to go in the summer. “That makes it very easy for us,” he said. The greater difficulty comes in offloading those still under contract. “It’s tough to break through here,” added Deila. Some, like Aleksandar Tonev, Wakaso Mubarak, Stefan Skepovic, and Derk Boerrigter have failed to do that.

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“All the players are good and it’s the survival of the fittest, who performs best, but if we win the treble then they have done their part as well. Even though they haven’t played so much they have been in training every day, being positive, trying to build each other up and be together with the group.” But, going forward, greater emphasis will be on the younger players pushing the first team regulars and playing their way into the reckoning.

“You have to build for the future. If we have 28 players who are good, aged from 22 to 31, then they expect to play and there’s no room for an 18, 19, 20-year-old boy, so if we can get that down youngsters will train with the first team every time and will get their opportunities when we have some injuries or suspension or they do very well and get into the team. It’s to make the pathway, make it easier to get through.”

The chances of John Guidetti being part of the new-look squad remain slim. The loan player, whose Manchester City contract expires in the summer, has been linked with his former club Feyenoord and Celtic are apparently unwilling to up the ante to keep him. “The situation is the same,” said Deila. “He has to come back and say he wants to play for Celtic and then we can sit down and talk about it. If not then he will go away. We have done everything we can.”

The priority, according to Deila, is identifying a new striker. “That is what I want. That is the same thing with 90 per cent of the clubs in Europe who will say that they need a striker, that is why it is so hard. Everybody is looking but I think you have to find somebody that you create and the way you play has to fit that striker. We need to find somebody who fits our system.

“It is the hardest position because if you find a good one then 15 other clubs want him too. You have to try to find him before and bring out his potential.”