Brendan Rodgers expects a ‘stronger’ Celtic by end of window

Celtic's Moussa Dembele is likely to be the subject of transfer bids during the January window.
Celtic's Moussa Dembele is likely to be the subject of transfer bids during the January window.
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Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has admitted that the decisions he makes during the next four weeks will not only impact on the way the remainder of the current campaign pans out but will also shape next season for the Premiership leaders.

Indeed, a combination of factors 
outwith the club’s control could make this the most important transfer 
window yet for them.

Firstly, the decision, announced in September, by the Premier League in England to close their summer window at 5pm on Thursday, 16 August – two days before the domestic campaign is expected to kick off – will see clubs anxious to do more business now.

Secondly, this summer’s World Cup finals in Russia means that many transfer targets will be inaccessible during that time frame, increasing the pressure on clubs to conclude their recruitment earlier.

That, believes Rodgers, is likely to mean that there will be more interest in his most valuable assets, including Scotland full-back Kieran Tierney and, particularly, France Under-21 striker Moussa Dembele.

Rumours of Brighton and Hove Albion’s desire to lure Dembele to the Falmer Stadium refuse to go away but Rodgers expects there will be many other suitors for him before the month is out.

“There’s always speculation,” he said. “With Moussa, we’re getting to that stage where there will be a different team linked with him every day.

“That’s the way it is. If you look at the Premier League though, their window has changed in the summer and it will close early.

“That puts them under pressure so they are on the look out for players, depending on how their teams are doing. There will be a sense of urgency.

“For us, we are pretty much in control. We know where we are at domestically and we know the enormous challenge we face to be competitive in the Champions League. That’s the exciting part, seeing if we can win the league and go for it again.

“January is an important window. Some players may move on but, from my experience here, it’s a window in which to prepare.

“It’s a World Cup season so, if you are looking to prepare for the Champions League, this six month run-in gives you an opportunity to do that.

“It’s about whether the right players are available but we definitely want to strengthen. I’d anticipate us being stronger [at the end of] January.”

Celtic have already begun that process by bringing in the 32-year-old German central defender Marvin Compper from RB Leipzig for £1million in an attempt to bolster an area of the team which has posed problems this season.

The £7.5m bonus payment the Premiership leaders received from the sell-on clause when Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk joined Liverpool from Southampton this month – which had not been budgeted for – should strengthen Rodgers’ hand when he re-enters the market.

Further revenue could come from the sale of fringe players such as Cristian Gamboa, Mikael Lustig’s understudy at right-back who would prefer regular first-team football in order to enhance his prospects of appearing for Costa Rica in Russia this summer.

Burnley are reportedly ready to make a £7m bid for injury-prone defender Jozo Simunovic, FC Copenhagen are interested in signing Danish centre-back Erik Sviatchenko while midfielder Liam Henderson, a Scottish Cup winner with Hibernian in 2016, has hit the glass ceiling at Parkhead, making only one substitute appearance this season.

On top of that, qualifying for the group stage of the Champions League in successive seasons has increased Celtic’s revenue to record levels and Rodgers is entitled to expect that some of that cash is diverted to the football department as he attempts to refresh and improve his squad.

“One or two might move on, in terms of players who need games, but it depends on what your needs are; if there’s a need for a central defender in January, then you try to get one,” he said.

“If it’s with a view to bedding them in and getting them ready for your biggest games, then [the window is] preparatory. But there might be a short-term need or a player you need to develop, so it’s a bit of both.”

One player likely to be shipped out temporarily is 20-year-old Zimbabwe midfielder Kundai Benyu, a summer signing from Ipswich Town, who made his second start (and the last of his four appearances thus far) in a 2-0 win at Kilmarnock on 19 August.

“Benyu is one we’ll gauge,” said Rodgers, pictured left. “We brought him in as a development player but he showed up really well in pre-season. Do we stick him out on loan, even though he’s just here, or do we give him six months to get a feel for Celtic, the size of the club, the demands, and the training?

“He’s had all of that, with some first-team experiences. He’s a good kid, but he also needs to play.”