Brendan Rodgers has hailed the development of Callum McGregor as one of the most gratifying aspects of his tenure as Celtic manager, writes Stephen Halliday.
McGregor is poised to make his 52nd appearance of an exceptional campaign for club and country when Celtic face Valencia in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie on Thursday night.
The 25-year-old has emerged as a leading Player of the Year contender this season and Rodgers is delighted to see the previously less heralded midfielder receiving the recognition he feels he merits.
“Callum is a brilliant player,” said the Celtic boss. “He is such a big talent and I am happy that he is getting the accolades now.
“Sometimes, if you are not running about smashing into other players, you might not get the plaudits and recognition. But Callum’s ability and courage to get on the ball, pass it and take it under pressure, are now being appreciated. He’s a wonderful player to have.
“When I first came in to the club, [first-team coach] John Kennedy told me all about Callum. He’s played in his young teams and he’d seen him coming through. Early on, I could tell that he was technically gifted.
“It was then a case of Callum knowing that I had the confidence in him and wanted to extend his game a bit more. That was about having personality as there is a fine line with good players. They have talent but personality and belief can take you to the next level.
“I wanted to help him and give him confidence, and now you can see the personality in his play. He has confidence and ability, and now flourishes in every game. “I have enjoyed watching the development of a lot of players and Callum is one of them.
“People ask ‘where’s the talent?’ in Scotland but look at a player like him – it’s there. Callum does the basics well and has a level of excellence every day, which he takes into the games.
“The simplicity of Callum’s game is all based on his view of the game. The really gifted players have a view on every position on the pitch. “I can play Callum as a left-back moving inside, I can play him as a No 10 and he gets a goal.
“I can play him deeper as a playmaker and he can play on the left, coming in to be the extra man in midfield. He just has this wonderful view of football – he gets it and understands the game. Callum also has this glorious first touch that sets him up whatever way he wants to go.”