Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers didn’t spare the superlatives earlier in the week when discussing new loan signing Charly Musonda, raving about his vision, ball control, distribution, game intelligence and the imagination he would bring to the champions.
There are many young players who could not cope with such a build-up but the 21-year-old Belgian midfielder, who joined the club on a 18-month loan deal from Chelsea on Monday, would appear to be able to handle it. When Rodgers’ comments were relayed to him, he was clearly delighted to be spoken of in that fashion and insisted that he wishes to be put under that kind of suffocating stress.
“When you are this type of player, that is what you want,” said Musonda. “There is pressure, this is football and this is what I do. I like to play for big teams in big games.
“I’ve always played for big teams. I’ve played for Chelsea, I’ve played for Anderlecht and I’ve also been to Real Betis on loan.
“These are big teams where you are expected to play well so this [apprehension] is not in my head. I just want to go out and enjoy football and help the team to win; if that is in a creative way, then that is my job and I just try to help.”
Musonda made his debut on Tuesday, replacing James Forrest for the final 28 minutes of the 3-1 win over Hearts and producing enough deft touches to whet the appetite of the home support.
“I had no doubts that Celtic could play the way we did,” he said. “This is a big club and I’m very happy. I didn’t expect the supporters to be so loud in my first game – although I’ve been told it will get louder – but it was an unbelievable experience for me.”
Musonda said that, if it had been possible, he would have made this switch last summer, revealing that the prospect of working under Rodgers was one of the major factors in his decision to reject similar offers from elsewhere and that an invitation to Parkhead last season put Celtic in pole position. “I knew even then how big Celtic is and I enjoyed watching the game,” he said.
“It was the last league game of the season [a 2-0 victory over Hearts] and they were already champions so it was great to see the team play and get a feel for the place I would be coming to. I almost came last summer but it wasn’t done. I spoke to the manager [Rodgers] again in January and I knew this time that I would be coming here.
“There were a lot of things going on last summer which stopped me. First of all I had to sign a new contract at Chelsea before being able to leave them and I had to take a long time to think about that as well.
“So many things contributed to that but playing for Celtic was never in doubt for me, even at that stage and even though I had many other options.
“I’ve spoken with Brendan Rodgers and I have a good relationship with him. This is a big club and he has developed quite a few other good young players over the years, going back to Scott Sinclair with Swansea.
“There were also top quality, high-profile players like Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling and here there is Patrick Roberts, whom I know well, and Kieran Tierney is an absolutely fantastic player for someone so young.
“It’s great to see the trust he has in young players so, for me, it was a no-brainer to come to Parkhead. It’s a dream for me to work with Brendan Rodgers. I’m here to play regularly but I also want to win and we are still in the Europa League. Hopefully, we can go far in that as well. I’m well aware that last year the team won a treble; this season we can try to repeat that.”