Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers pinpointed holding on to matchwinning goalscorer Olivier Ntcham and Dedryck Boyata during the transfer window as central to the Scottish champions’ latest derby success – yesterday’s 1-0 home victory.
The Irishman dismissed suggestions the messy exit of Moussa Dembele on Friday night that netted the club £19.7 million from Lyon disrupted his team’s preparations for a first encounter with Steven Gerrard’s side. These were “very easy; you have to park all that stuff,” he said, but admitted parking bids for Boyata and Ntcham was crucial. The Belgian defender found himself in dispute with Celtic over his fitness following their rejection of a £9m offer from Fulham for him, while Porto and Ntcham’s agent appeared to be pushing for a move to Portugal for the player.
Emerging from the window with the pair still to the fore in Celtic colours is one aspect of the window that Rodgers can now reflect on with relief.
“That’s management,” he said. “That’s your job. You can’t let these things drift. There was big interest in Olivier and Dedryck as well. But you sit down and talk with the players. You look at the pathway forward for them.
“I’m sure they are going to leave at some point but then you have to be able to put them in a mindset so they see the opportunity for them and then they will move on in the future.
“I think you saw both players’ performances today. Dedryck Boyata was outstanding today. That’s a shame for us in terms of the Champions League [after the AEK Athens qualifier was lost without him]. However, it’s gone. He was great today and he’ll help us for the rest of the season. Olivier was first class.”
Rodgers, pictured, conceded that such transfer uncertainty can affect team spirit, yesterday rejecting claims from Dembele he had broken promises over the player being allowed to move on.
“It can be [a concern],” the Irishman said. “I think the communication is important. With the players, there are only three things I promise them. I said it on the first day I came in and I say it to every new player. My communication is open. That’s the first point. I won’t tell you something in six months which I can tell you know. Whether you want to hear it or not is entirely up to you. In the modern game, sometimes pride can get hurt. I’ll always guarantee them quality in their work. Hopefully they’ll develop as individual players. The third thing is I’m fiercely ambitious. I’m ambitious for the club to have success and I’m ambitious for them. Their careers are short. So I want to help them.
“Those three I can guarantee. So it’s a case of managing that. It’s a difficult situation. A delicate one. But like we say, you have to communicate and very quickly you pull in players and they understand how we want to develop.
“You saw in the performance today the intensity and quality of their work. It showed the togetherness. It was a very good performance. But I expect us to improve. We’ve got a couple of other players in who will help the squad. We saw the identity of the team today.
“Under big pressure, I think that shone through – the quality of the football and the spirit of the team.”