Brendan Rodgers has admitted Moussa Dembele could leave during the January transfer window but added that it would take “a lot for that to happen”.
The Celtic manager, who watched his team open up a 11-point lead in the Premiership with a commanding 2-0 win over Dundee at Dens Park yesterday, mocked the erroneous reports on Christmas Day that an £1 8million bid from Brighton had been accepted for the France under-21 international.
But he did acknowledge that the right offer could yet bring about Dembele’s departure.
Adopting a notably different tone to last year’s January transfer window – when he said Dembele would not be be sold under any circumstances, Rodger said: “We don’t want to lose any players, of course. And we won’t lose any players. However, if something comes in, it goes back to that issue morally. If thereis something where a player can earn five times as much as what he’s on now, then it is very, very difficult to stop him, especially if you get a fee for a player.
“But there is a lot for that to happen, a lot that needs to be right. We don’t need to sell anyone. That’s the idea.
“But I think what is important at Celtic, especially when you are doing well, is you know there’s going to be interest and you have to prepare. And, if we do lose any of our players for the reasons I’ve just said, we hope then we’ll have some to bring in and keep the continuation going of how we are working.”
Dembele came on as a late substitute on an afternoon that brought a goal for Leigh Griffiths when he played in the central striking role – the first by a Celtic player occupying that position in six games. Rodgers maintained that Dembele remained fully focussed in the face of the latest speculation, and would be in the right frame of mind to lead the line against Rangers, if given the nod for Saturday’s home derby.
“Must have been a quiet day yesterday with it being Christmas Day,” the Celtic manager said of the Brighton link for Dembele. “Chuck it out and wherever it comes from, I don’t know. There’s certainly been nothing. I haven’t been informed of anything from the club. Like I say, it’s all part of the modern game. Of course there’ll be interest because the players are doing really well. Players have shown consistently the motivation to work well. So naturally there is always going to be interest but, no, there is nothing else on it.”
Rodgers would not be drawn on the possibility of Griffiths starting against Rangers after the Scotland international was seen to shout “Im the f***ing man” after his 43rd minute goal, which followed an eighth-minute opener from James Forrest. “There will always be that, they have to think that, even when they’re not,“ he said of the cry from Griffiths. “Every player wants to start against Rangers and everyone should do. “Leigh took his goal well and tactically he was very good in the game. Whenever he got the ball I thought he was good. He pressed well and got into good positions and his goal is what he does. It was a very good goal.
“A break is good for all the players because you need to retain that fluency and intensity, especially in those front areas. It’s not just about scoring goals for me, it’s about how they press the game and the intensity they provide. The press starts from players pressing up the pitch, it’s an important dynamic for the team.”
In his post-match, Rodgers was able to allay fears that Jonny Hayes had suffered a fracture. That had appeared the case after a crunching tackle with Josh Meekings that led to an seven-minute interruption midway through the first half before the Irishman was removed on a stretcher.
“Hopefully it’s not too serious with Jonny,” he said. “It was clearly hurting him a lot when he was on the pitch, you could see that. I feared the worst at the time, when I heard the noise I was looking directly at his leg to see what state it was in. There was a noise but I think it must have just been a clash of their shinpads. He is away for an x-ray and that will tell us where he’s at.
“We are hoping it’s just bruising of his shin bone. Both boys came off so I hope Josh Meekings is okay as well, they are two tough players. There was nothing in it, there wasn’t any malice. Jonny was coming in from the other side, he was pressing the centre half and it was just unfortunate.”
Meanwhile, Dundee counterpart Neil McCann admitted he had endured a tough time personally following the death of his father hours before he led his side for Saturday’s draw with Motherwell but asked that questions be restricted to football matters. He considered is side lacked the aggression to combat Celtic.
“We needed to up the aggression levels in the second half but we didn’t really do that, we maybe lacked a wee bit of belief that we could get into the game,” he said. “I won’t be too hard on them because we have had three tough games lately. We have one more then we will get in to the winter break.”