RONNY Deila has insisted that no amount of money will tempt Celtic to cash in on Virgil van Dijk in the January transfer window.
The Celtic manager believes that his highly-prized centre-back will still be with the Scottish champions in the new year and even claimed that Van Dijk will become a “world-class” footballer one day if he makes the right decisions now by choosing development over money.
With Arsenal and Liverpool both keen on Van Dijk, Deila knows there is a chance for the young Dutchman to have his head turned by a move to the English Premier League. Asked what kind of fee would secure Celtic’s agreement to sell, and for Van Dijk to follow the trail set by Victor Wanyama and Fraser Forster, for whom Southampton paid £12 million and £10m, respectively, Deila replied: “Virgil is worth a lot of money but I am very calm [about a January move]. Virgil is enjoying his football, playing well and when I speak with him he’s happy here. That’s positive. He is such an important player for us.”
Deila had to drop Van Dijk from the side in August, claiming that the 22-year-old defender was mentally distracted by the close of the last transfer window and Celtic’s decision not to sell him to England.
“I think he learned a lot from that,” said Deila, ahead of Celtic’s match at home to Ross County in the Scottish Premiership tomorrow. “It’s not the first time a player has been affected. Others have been through these things. Stefan Johansen was the same. He came from the Euro 2012 finals with Norway two years ago and played so badly for Stromsgodset. I have never seen him so bad because his mind was somewhere else.
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“You can see a bit of that in [John] Guidetti now as well. If he can get his mind right, the goals will come again. If you think too much about uncertainties, about what you’re going to earn, it takes energy out of what you’re going to do on the pitch.
“But Virgil learned from what happened in the summer and he knows that if he’s good enough things will happen. And this is the way he wants to do it – but now he’s enjoying football and that’s the most important thing.”
Deila says there are few signs of desperation from Van Dijk about leaving in this window. “He’s very happy,” said the manager. “I have talked to him. And we are very happy to keep him as well. He’s a top player. In my opinion he can become a world-class player. He is a very good player now but he can be world-class.”
The next step, for Van Dijk, is to choose a club that suits his development in the way that Celtic have since his £2.6 million recruitment from Groningen in 2013. “Yes, and one that really wants him,” said Deila. “That is very important for every player. It is not just about money.
“If a club buys you for a lot of money and really wants you. If they buy you cheap, they maybe think, ‘Okay, I can take a chance on him.’ For me, Virgil is developing now and taking steps all the time which is very important. I am so happy to have him here.
“He has big games here, in Europe, like Inter Milan. His stats are good and he’s scoring goals, too. He has six. He’s getting better in defence. Making less and less mistakes. Sharper, quicker. Now the next thing for him, even though he’s just 22 years old – he’s so young – but you need to become a leader. We need that leader in defence who controls things. He’s starting to do that but there are still a lot things to work on.”
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