United assistant manager Simon Donnelly stressed he is unaware of any official approach but admitted the speculation was far from welcome. Following the furore and fall-out from the January sale of Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven, which he described as unhelpful, he acknowledged the club would come under intense pressure to reject any bid.
The departure of two of the club’s main attacking options at the turn of the year sparked a major downturn in results and led to a rift between the club’s management and a section of the Tannadice fans, who also rounded on chairman Stephen Thompson.
Subsequently ousted from both the League and Scottish Cup at the hands of Ronny Deila’s men, they have also won just four points from a possible 30 on league duty, dropping down to fifth in the standings, albeit with a game in hand.
Supporters also reacted angrily to revelations that United manager Jackie McNamara had earned payments from those transfers, as well as the previous sale of other young talents Ryan Gauld and Andy Robertson.
Speaking about the rumoured interest in Ciftci, Donnelly said he expected there to be pressure from fans to reject any offer and attempt to win back some of the goodwill by battling to retain the services of the Turkish forward. “I think that’s always going to be there,” Donnelly told STV. “All the drama that was whipped up over the stuff in January wasn’t helpful to the club but we as coaches and the manager just have to try and focus on our job here.”
Ciftci has scored 31 goals since joining United from NAC Breda in July 2013, netting 14 goals in 37 matches this season.
There had been suggestions that Celtic would attempt to take the 23-year-old to Glasgow at the turn of the year, along with Mackay-Steven, who had already signed a pre-contract, and Armstrong. But after United put a £3m price tag on the player, the defending champions were put off.
The approach of the close season has prompted a rethink, with Deila looking to bolster his squad as he resets his targets for the new campaign. With John Guidetti set to leave Parkhead at the end of the season, the United frontman is seen as a viable replacement and the fact that Ciftci is moving into the final year of his current deal, which expires in June 2016, has emboldened Celtic who are reportedly planning a bid of around £1.5m.
But while speculation is rife, Donnelly said that no bid had been tabled. “You are always going to have interest and speculation; we’ve had to deal with it for the two years we’ve been here.
“It obviously means we’re doing something right and Nadir is doing something right. I’ve said before he’s a top player, on his game he’s as good as anything in this division.”
But he insisted that with work still to be done before the season is over, the focus is still on the current campaign.
“Nadir is a Dundee United player so it is our job in the next five games to go and try and reach Europe and Nadir will help us do that.”