'I like him a lot': Brendan Rodgers purrs over Celtic ace but makes 'more you learn more you earn' comment

Brendan Rodgers believes central midfielder Matt O’Riley is “only going to get better” at Celtic – and has urged him to keep adding goals to his game.

O’Riley has started both of Celtic’s Premiership matches under new manager Rodgers and scored his second goal of the season with the final strike in Sunday’s 3-1 victory over Aberdeen. Last season, it took the 22-year-old until February to find the net and while he was an impressive performer at Pittodrie, Rodgers feels there is much more to come from the Denmark Under-21 internationalist.

“I like him, I like him a lot,” said Rodgers on O’Riley. “I think he is a really intelligent footballer. Firstly as a professional, he is a top professional. He prepares his body well and he prepares his life well. He wants to do well. He sets his standards high every day to be better. When I looked at his numbers and everything else I think I said to him you need to score more goals as he didn't do it enough.

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“He was a bit like Jamesy Forrest when I first came into the club. He didn't score enough for the talent he had and I was looking at Matt from last season and his first goal was in February. You can't have that talent and be waiting that long. It is all about arriving in the areas and finding composure to finish. I really like him, his build up play is good, he takes the ball and he needs to work on his pressing and intensity, but he is a wonderful footballer and he is a good guy as well.”

Matt O'Riley scored in his second successive Celtic match with a strike against Aberdeen.Matt O'Riley scored in his second successive Celtic match with a strike against Aberdeen.
Matt O'Riley scored in his second successive Celtic match with a strike against Aberdeen.

While being aware of O’Riley while he was managing Leicester City down south, the skills of the player have been emphasised to Rodgers more now that they have spent time on the training pitch. “I didn't see a great deal of him,” continued Rodgers. “He was obviously at MK Dons and I know he was linked with moves down south as most Celtic or Rangers players are. I have watched every Celtic game that has been on telly and I have seen his ability. He is a wonderful footballer and he is ambitious and he wants to be better and improve and I am really pleased for him and that was a good run into the box and finish from him [against Aberdeen].”

Rodgers showed in his previous spell as Celtic manager that he was able to take players to another level, with James Forrest and Callum McGregor two prime examples. Rodgers plans to do the same with O’Riley, but says it is up to the player to ultimately make the next step. “Hopefully I always try and create that culture [of improvement] but the responsibility lies with the footballer,” explained Rodgers. “You design sessions and work sessions with the players and staff and you create an environment that is designed to help them develop and improve and if you are clever enough you take that on board. He's in his early 20s and he is only going to get better as he is at the start of his asset age as a player and will get better. I say to them ‘the more you learn the more you earn’. If you keep learning you will keep earning. Hopefully he is intelligent.”



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