Anthony Stokes loan move ‘has to be right for Celtic’

Two weeks into the transfer window and Celtic have not yet found it necessary to replace the iron gates at their Lennoxtown training ground with a set of revolving doors.

Two weeks into the transfer window and Celtic have not yet found it necessary to replace the iron gates at their Lennoxtown training ground with a set of revolving doors.

Given the dizzying amount of names being linked with both incoming and outgoing moves from the Scottish champions, that might have seemed appropriate.

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As yet, however, no business has been concluded either in or out as manager Ronny Deila juggles all options open to him in reshuffling his squad both for the defence of the Premiership title and what he hopes will be another Champions League qualifying campaign in the summer.

One of the first moves could be the temporary departure of Anthony Stokes, the out-of-favour Irish forward being sought on loan by both Hibs and Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

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Deila says there is also interest in the 27-year-old from south of the border and that Stokes, whose preferred destination is understood to be former club Hibs, will not be making a unilateral decision on where he plays in the second half of the season.

“He has some options and so do we,” said Deila. “He has to go on loan to play games and get running again. It hasn’t been decided what club he goes to, but hopefully that will happen very quick.

“It’s not only his decision. It has to be right for us as well but if he doesn’t want to go somewhere, then it cannot happen. There has to be an agreement.

“Would it be better for us if he went to an English club? Only if he plays every week. That is the most important thing. We want him to go on loan to the highest level possible, but he has to play.

“He has been out for a long time and it’s important that he goes to a place where he is important for the team.

“We will see if it is okay for him to go to the Scottish Championship or not. There are clubs in Scotland and England interested and I don’t want to comment on it before things happen.”

One player Deila is determined will not be leaving Celtic this month is Australian midfielder Tom Rogic who has attracted the interest of Leeds United.

The 23-year-old has emerged as a key player for Deila’s side this season and talks have opened on an extension to his current contract which expires next year.

“We want Tom to sign a new deal and stay here,” said Deila. “He is in a good place right now and has played a lot of games for us this season. Last year, I didn’t know who he was because he had been loaned out and was injured for a long time.

“Now he has taken his chance and I see he has a lot of potential and development in him. He has some things which are very hard to find. He has unbelievable technique and is very creative.

“We need to get more fitness in him, get him sharper and quicker so he can run more, then he will be a very good footballer.

“I have talked with Peter Lawwell about Tom and we don’t want to sell him. But everyone is for sale, depending on how much money you’re talking about. Tom isn’t one we want to sell, though.

“I don’t think any English Championship club would be a step up for Tom, anyway. If they are going to leave Celtic, they should go straight to the Premier League.”

As far as new recruits are concerned, Deila dismissed reports linking Celtic with a loan move for Manchester City’s 19-year-old Kosovo-born Norwegian midfielder Bersant Celina.

The teenager came through the youth system at Deila’s former club Stromsgodset before signing a three-year contract with City in 2014.

“I heard that was mentioned and maybe it’s because of my connection with Stromsgodset,” said Deila. “But there’s nothing in it. We’re not looking so much at that type of player. We’re thinking of someone more experienced.”

Deila also provided updates on the two trialists who spent last week training with his first team squad – highly-regarded 17-year-old Norwegian midfielder Kristoffer Ajer and 23-year-old Romanian full-back Andrei Peteleu.

Ajer, who is the youngest senior club captain in Norwegian league history at his club Start, is also being tracked by Liverpool, Spurs, Roma and Hertha Berlin.

“He did well with us, he is a talented boy,” said Deila. “We were happy to get him here for a week and it was good for him to see what we are about too.

“We haven’t made a decision yet, there are a lot of things to look at. But it was a good week for both parties and we’ll see what happens.

“He could be a player to sign now or in the summer. But he is not a player who would immediately be a big part of our first team. It could be he also stays in Norway for half the season and also to finish school. He would be a long -term project for us, he is very young.

“The Romanian player went home after a week and there is a decision to be made on him too. He was okay. I didn’t see as much of him as I did of Ajer, but we have to compare him to the other options we have here.”

In his search for players who can make an immediate first-team impact this month, Deila has been linked with – among others – Serbian defender Aleksandar Pantic, Croatian midfielder Ivan Mocinic, Dutch striker Wout Weghorst and Icelandic forward Kolbein Sigthorsson.

“We want players who have played games before and who can come in and do something now,” he added.

“The ones we have looked at, of course they are within our budget. We’re not looking at anyone on the Ballon d’Or list – it’s not going to be them. It is players who have been important for their current teams.”

Deila could also soon call on the services of Ryan Christie, signed on deadline day of the last transfer window before being immediately loaned back to Inverness.

The 20-year-old midfielder was recalled after suffering a knee injury and was able to take full part in first-team training for the first time yesterday. There was also the welcome sight for Deila of captain Scott Brown starting to run as he steps up his recovery from a knee injury which was initially expected to sideline him until mid-February.

“With Broony and Ryan out there, it’s very positive,” said Deila. “It’s important to have them back for big games coming up and if we can add one or two more during the window, that can make us even stronger.”