Erik Sviatchenko part of Celtic’s ‘Champions League plan’

Celtic paid Midtjylland �1.5m to capture the signature of Danish international Erik Sviatchenko. Picture: SNS
Celtic paid Midtjylland �1.5m to capture the signature of Danish international Erik Sviatchenko. Picture: SNS
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Ronny Deila has hailed the £1.5 million capture of Erik Sviatchenko as a crucial step towards ensuring Celtic are better prepared for what he hopes will be his third attempt to lead them into the Champions League this year.

Danish international defender Sviatchenko has signed a four-and-a-half-year contract with the Scottish champions as Deila seeks to avoid any late disruption to his first-team squad in the summer.

We will try and bring more in before the end of this window. It has started well with Erik. I have known about him for a long time and now was the time to do it.

Ronny Deila

He expects to make further acquisitions during the January transfer window, with Molde striker Mohamed Elyounoussi the latest name to be linked with Celtic.

Deila declined to comment specifically on Elyounoussi or any other potential targets but admitted he intends to have a more settled side than the one which went into this season’s Champions League qualifiers and lost out in the play-off round to Malmo.

The greatest uncertainty at that time surrounded Celtic’s central defence, with the departure of Jason Denayer after a successful loan spell and the June arrival of Dedryck Boyata from Manchester City.

Sviatchenko, 24, will have more time to establish himself at Celtic and form a central defensive partnership with either Boyata or Jozo Simunovic ahead of the European qualifiers in July.

“If we find the right players, we will try and bring more in before the end of this window,” said Deila. “It has started well with Erik coming. We have done something quite early in the window this time, so hopefully there will be more.

“Last year we had players like Jason Denayer and John ­Guidetti who didn’t stay at the end of the season. It was a bad time to lose players who had played quite regularly.

“So that is an important thing this year. We also had the situation with Virgil van Dijk, where we knew something was going to happen.

“So it gets a little edgy when things are like that. Now, we have many players on longer contracts and we can build some future from it.”

Deila had initially hoped to sign Sviatchenko last summer but any move was blocked by his Danish club Midtjylland as they won their first ever domestic title and reached the last 32 of the Europa League.

“I have known about him for a long time and now was the right time to do it,” said Deila. “I am so happy we have done this deal.

“He is a player who has been important for his team, a team which has developed a lot, won their championship and done well in Europe.

“He was their captain at a very young age, 22, so this is a guy who wants to get better. When you talk to him, you understand what kind of ambitions he has. He suits our profile.

“He is a very aggressive defender. He’s not the tallest, but is good in the air – he has a good spring. He is a leader, a communicator. He is good on the ball as well, so he has a lot of good attributes.

“He’s very motivated and has a strong mentality. He speaks on and off the pitch and can be good in the dressing room as well.

“It is always tough to get these deals done, but it helps when you have Celtic as an attraction. He was very interested when he first heard we were interested.

“I had a talk with him on the phone and could feel this was real, that he felt this was the right step for him in his career. Now is the right time, for him and for his club. They wanted to keep him longer because of their domestic championship and Europe. So it was something we were monitoring.”

It seems Deila is also monitoring Elyounoussi, the 21-year-old Molde striker who scored in both of the Norwegian club’s victories over Celtic in the group stage of the Champions League this season.

The Moroccan-born Norwegian international is under contract at Molde­ until the end of next year but claimed yesterday to be aware of attention from Celtic.

“It is true that there is interest, but it’s there from elsewhere too,” said Elyounoussi. “Time will tell. I am concentrating on my contract and I am working hard to get in shape for the new season here in Norway.”

Celtic have also been linked with Danish international winger Rasmus Falk, who is out of contract at Odense in the summer.

“I can’t comment on names,” said Deila. “We are into different things and we will comment if anything happens. There is nothing that is clear now. We have to find the right ones, we are looking every­where for good options.”

Celtic will look to re-open a six-point lead over Aberdeen at the top of the Premiership tonight when they face Hamilton Accies in a rescheduled fixture at Parkhead. Deila has challenged his players to build momentum on the back of last Friday night’s 4-1 win over Dundee United at Tannadice.

“We want to keep on winning and Hamilton will be a tough game,” said Deila. “We need to start with the intensity we need to create chances and score goals like we did against United.”