There was an undeniable sense yesterday that Brendan Rodgers was willing to stake his reputation on the career movements of Craig Gordon.
Mid-morning, it was being presented as a no-brainer in some quarters that Gordon would gallop down to London for a lucrative contract with English Premier League leaders Chelsea, and that Celtic would be happy to saddle him up for the ride because they could bank a tidy £3 million profit for a 34-year-old.
By the time Rodgers had completed his Friday press duties, a very different impression had taken root. Gordon would hardly be human if he didn’t fancy joining the world’s biggest clubs and, in the process, perhaps quadrupling his salary. Rodgers, though, could hardly have been straighter about the fact such a move will not happen while Chelsea’s pursuit of a new understudy to Thibaut Courtois fails to see them prepared to part with a fee closer to the £12m Bournemouth appear prepared to pay for current Chelsea second-choice keeper Asmir Begovic.
The Celtic manager was asked directly if he is as “certain” as he could be that Gordon will still be a Celtic player when the transfer window closes on 1 February? His answer was unequivocal.
“Yeah. Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “Because the strength is with the club. There are 18 months left on his contract and where do I get another goalkeeper at this stage, when I am looking to build something? It’s been a long, hard road for Craig in the opening period here to get to the level where I wanted him to be at but he took it on board and trained hard and, tactically, he understood it. So I’m not really of the mindset to throw all of that out and be left having to look for another Champions League goalkeeper.”
Yet Rodgers acknowledged that any player’s career is about “game time “and “money”. In terms of the latter, the Chelsea interest has put Gordon in “pole position” for improved terms at Celtic, said Rodgers, who admitted: “We as a club have to look after him.”
The Celtic keeper certainly wouldn’t be guaranteed game time at Chelsea. And, following two years lost to injury, playing a dozen games a season for the next two years when he has just regained his status as Scotland No 1 after seven years, that would hardly bolster his playing career, Rodgers ventured.
“You become a training keeper and you are virtually forfeiting two or three years of your life to be a training keeper.
“Before you know it, you are 37 and where do you go? Right now, Craig is in a great moment. I watched games when the ball would go back to Craig and you would hear the noise of the crowd. Now he’s producing passing masterclasses from the back – playing in a way nobody thought he could.”
With Chelsea expected to up their bid over the weekend and Gordon reportedly keen to hear what they have to say, the only potential for a twist in this tale is an offer that Celtic couldn’t refuse. Every player has his price, Rodgers accepts.
“There has been absolutely nowhere near the valuation [from Chelsea] and I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it: no player will ever come out of Celtic cheap, if they are to go. There is talk of Begovic being £10 or £12 million, so you are not going to sell one and bring one in to replace for say £2 or £3m, are you? Why would you do it? You wouldn’t. If that’s the numbers. But I’ve no interest in doing it for any of the players.”
Celtic captain Scott Brown found himself in a quandary in assessing the developing situation with his “close friend” and team-mate Gordon, who he is desperate to see remain by his side.
The midfielder was never tempted to move in ten years at Celtic, which on Wednesday brought him a 400th appearance, with his English Premier League offers from clubs liable to be battling relegation. That was a far cry from Celtic providing the chance to go for title, give him the chance to “play with the ball” and perform in the Champions League.
Brown recognises there is a different allure in what Chelsea could provide for Gordon. “I can’t fight that one,” said Brown. “I can’t use the Champions League card, or play the league card because they are top of the league. He’d miss me, he’d miss the weather.
“It is understandable that people are coming in for him and he might be thinking ‘do I go or do I stay’. You don’t want to start talking about it because it will mess with his head if people start saying ‘Craig, are you going here or there?’ It is his call and the club’s call now but I am sure he will want to stay here and keep it going because he means so much to everyone in that dressing room.”
Rodgers would say the call is his. And that it has been made.