Stefan Johansen has admitted to uncertainty over his long-term future at Celtic as he approaches the final year of his contract with the Scottish champions.
The Norwegian international midfielder, who joined Celtic from Stromsgodset for £2 million two years ago, is reluctant to predict the outcome of ongoing talks between his agent Tore Pedersen and the club’s chief executive Peter Lawwell over a new deal. Johansen is under contract until summer of 2017 and has previously been linked with moves to clubs in both the English Premier League and German Bundesliga.
Celtic have recently agreed contract extensions with some of their key first-team squad members, with Nir Bitton and Leigh Griffiths signing deals taking them to 2020 and 2021 respectively. Last year, club captain Scott Brown penned a new contract which runs until 2018. Johansen, however, is unwilling to publicly commit himself to following suit. “It is very positive for the club to sign those kind of players long-term,” he said. “For me, we are in talks. That’s all I can say and we will take it from there.
“I have no comment about it. You need to speak to my agent. Always in the past, I don’t comment about this. I know we are in talks and we’ll see what happens.”
Johansen, who will celebrate his 25th birthday on Friday, has struggled this season to replicate the form which saw him crowned PFA Scotland Player of the Year in 2015.
His performances for both club and country – Norway missed out on the Euro 2016 finals when they lost to Hungary in the play-offs – have attracted criticism in recent months.
That prompted Celtic manager Ronny Deila to give Johansen an extended rest after the November international break.
“I felt very good after that,” he said. “My head was spinning at the time. I just went away to quiet places in Norway and Scotland with my fiancee. It was good for me, I felt it helped and it’s going to help me in the long term.
“When I came here from Norway and played so many games for Celtic from the start, it was new for me. It’s quite easy to just say everything is okay. But then your form starts dropping.
“After that break, I was able to reflect on things. I pushed football away and could see things that I didn’t see every day when you are in the middle of it all.
“Of course it has been a difficult few months. It is always better to have positive things said about you, but I think the criticism makes you more grown up and you learn from it.
“I know that I have not played my best football this season. But often the biggest pressure on me is the pressure I put on myself. I know when I’m playing good football and I know when I’m playing bad. It’s up to me to do the right things to get my form back.
“That’s what it is like at a club like this and it’s part of the job you have to handle. That’s why I play football, I like to have supporters who care about the club.”
Celtic moved three points clear of Aberdeen at the top of the Scottish Premiership at the weekend when Leigh Griffiths’ 90th-minute goal secured a 1-0 win over Partick Thistle at Parkhead.
But it was another unconvincing display from the champions as manager Deila remains under considerable scrutiny.
“It is too simple to blame the manager,” said Johansen. “It’s not him who has to go out and play. The players need to take responsibility as well and we have not done well enough in a couple of games recently.
“So you can’t just blame the manager. We need to be realistic. We have not played well in some games and we have to take the criticism. That’s part of the job and we have to be ready to bounce back.”