‘Divine intervention’ convinced Filip Benkovic Celtic was right move

The atmosphere at Parkhead had a captivating effect on Filip Benkovic. Picture: SNS.
The atmosphere at Parkhead had a captivating effect on Filip Benkovic. Picture: SNS.
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Filip Benkovic joined Leicester City from Dinamo Zagreb for £13.5 million on 13 August but he had been with the Midlands club for less than a fortnight before he realised he would be better relocating to Glasgow if his career was going to progress at the desired rate.

When City made it clear they would not consider an offer of £65m from Manchester United for England’s World Cup centre-half Harry Maguire, the Croatia Under-21 defender realised that he was unlikely to start too often for the Foxes.

Hence the loan move to Celtic and, after experiencing his first European night at Parkhead in Thursday’s 1-0 Europa League victory over Rosenborg, he is convinced he made the correct decision to spend the remainder of the current campaign on loan to the Premiership champions.

“I saw their situation,” he said. “There were a lot of defenders and some players were worth £80m. I looked at it realistically. I wanted somewhere to have a better chance to play and to improve my game.

“Only by playing can you get better so I was happy that this happened. It was maybe on the last day of the window. I waited a long time but, in the end, everything settled well.”

Benkovic, pictured, was captivated by the atmosphere generated by the large crowd on Thursday and, while Celtic’s performance was unconvincing, he believes that substitute Leigh Griffiths’ late goal was a case of divine intervention and no more than Rosenborg deserved for their ultra-cautious tactics.

“They came here not to play so much,” he said. “But we sort of expected it because, in the previous games against them, they also stayed behind the ball.

“It was a tough match and we needed a lot of time to get to their goal. We had some opportunities but we believed until the last minute; God gave us it back, you know.

“The atmosphere was fantastic and I really enjoyed it. It was a pleasure to play in this game. It was my first at Celtic Park and it was an unbelievable feeling. The fans were behind us for 90 minutes, they trusted in us and we believed in ourselves.

“We scored at the end of the game and it was a very important three points. This is why we play football, because 
of this.

“If someone asks you why you play football you bring him here and he will see everything. It was very emotional and I’m very happy to be here.”

Having now been paired with Dedryck Boyata against St Mirren and Rosenborg, Bencovik claims that there is a promising partnership developing between the pair.

“Dedryck and I played on Thursday night after playing together in my first game and I can learn from him because he’s a very experienced player,” he said.