The Norwegian also insisted that, whatever moves Celtic make in the last two weeks of the transfer window, he does not envisage the sale of Kris Commons being among them.
Deila is hopeful Celtic will reach a pre-contract deal with Mackay-Steven, having lodged a letter notifying United that they would speak to the Thurso-born Scotland international.
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Any willingness to even go some way towards meeting the Tayside club’s £250,000 asking price, will depend on first tying him up on a contract at Celtic from the point his current deal with United expires in the summer, added Deila.
He said: “It has to be between the two clubs. First of all we have to get him to sign and then we’ll take it from there,” he said. “But [ultimately] it’s about money.”
Mackay-Steven has been the subject of a number of five-figure bids from English League One side Sheffield United and also been linked with moves to the English Championship.
Deila, though, claims that a switch to Glasgow would suit him better – and insists that an immediate transfer would be in Celtic’s interests in a season in which they could be pushed for the title by current Premiership leaders Aberdeen.
“If Gary Mackay-Steven comes now, then it is for this season because he’s a Scottish player, he knows the league and he can go in and do a job at once. But, for players coming in from other countries, it’s harder for them to get into the environment and the way of playing.
“I think it’s also a good step to go through, keep yourself in Scotland, do well here with Celtic and in Europe then your chances will be even bigger. I think it’s safer for him and it’s safer for us. We want to be the best club to develop players and that’s going to be a good thing for him as well.”
Mackay-Steven would fit in right away, according to Deila, because, although there may be “fast wingers” in the club’s ranks, they have not featured for various reasons. “We had [Aleksandar] Tonev, but he’s been out for a while [suspended]. Derk Boerrigter has been injured most of the time and James Forrest has also been out. The fast wingers, we haven’t had them available. Also we need competition and when a player like Mackay-Steven is available we have to be on our toes and try to do it.
“When we beat United 6-1 earlier in the season, I saw his penetrating runs and he was tricky. I also saw him against Aberdeen at the beginning of the season at Pittodrie when he scored a goal. He’s a player I like, he’s quick, can go in behind, go past people. He has a good understanding of the game and suits our style of playing.”
Commons showed evidence of his game understanding in Celtic’s last outing, with a man-of-the-match performance in the 2-0 win over Kilmarnock a week past Monday which preceded the club’s winter break jaunt to Gran Canaria.
There has been no resolution to the 31-year-old’s contract negotiations, with the club only willing to give a one-year extension and not the two-year deal he seeks.
Bolton Wanderers manager Neil Lennon yesterday stated that his former Celtic playmaker was interesting more clubs that just his Championship side but Deila dismissed suggestions that Commons could be on his way this month.
“We’ve had nothing from no-one and our process with Kris is going on,” the Celtic manager said. “But he is going to stay until the end of the season. It’s longer-term we have to think about with Kris. His focus looked good last Monday and if he keeps on like that, things are going to be good for both of us. If [any sale] would make the team worse, then we won’t do it. Everyone has a price, and you never know in football, but we have to have a better squad on 1 February than we have now.“
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