Brendan Rodgers vindicated as Celtic keep their prize assets

Brendan Rodgers and Celtic held on to their star players. Picture: PA
Brendan Rodgers and Celtic held on to their star players. Picture: PA
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Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers’ desire to retain the services of his key players beyond the close of the January transfer window was fulfilled as potential moves to Chelsea for Moussa Dembele and Craig Gordon failed to materialise.

On a muted deadline day in Scottish football, Rodgers’ declaration earlier this week that the Scottish champions are in “total control” of the future of every member of their current squad was vindicated.

The only mildly dramatic element of the build-up to the window closing was Dembele’s appearance on an early-morning flight from Glasgow to London, inevitably fuelling the speculation which had emerged on Monday over Chelsea’s interest in him.

But it was quickly clarified that the 20-year-old French striker’s trip south was for a pre-arranged appointment with a specialist to assess the knee injury which is currently keeping him on the sidelines.

As he made the return journey in the evening, Dembele amusingly took to social media to make it clear he would be remaining a Celtic
player, posting an image of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character from The Wolf of Wall Street film in which he colourfully declares he has no intention of leaving.

Dembele, signed from Fulham for a £500,000 development fee last summer, has scored 20 goals for Celtic this season, with his performances at Champions League level and in Old Firm matches leveraging his reputation to the extent the Parkhead club now place a value in the region of £40 million on him.

Liverpool and West Ham United are also understood to have a keen interest in the player but he will now be a Celtic player until at least the summer.

Rodgers, meanwhile, was as good as his word in guaranteeing Gordon will line up for Celtic against Aberdeen tonight. The Scotland goalkeeper was the subject of two offers from Chelsea, the second one in the region of £4m, which were both turned down by Celtic.

The 34-year-old former Hearts and Sunderland keeper is out of contract this summer with a one-year option but is now set to be rewarded with a more lucrative and longer-term new deal at Rodgers’ behest.

Two players who have fallen out of the first-team reckoning under Rodgers, striker Nadir Ciftci and defender Efe Ambrose, were in negotiations over possible loan moves on deadline day.

Ciftci, 24, returned from a trip to the Netherlands where he was unable to find a club and found himself the subject of a bid from Motherwell to recruit him for the rest of the season.

Signed from Dundee United for £1.5 million on a four-year contract in the summer of 2015, Ciftci has scored just four goals in 24 appearances for Celtic and made just two substitute appearances under Rodgers, both against Lincoln Red Imps in the Champions League qualifiers

last July.

Nigerian international Ambrose has been frozen out of the first-team picture this season, also making just two appearances in the Champions League qualifiers – the away games against Lincoln Red Imps and Astana – and is out of contract this summer. The 28-year-old, who joined Celtic from Israeli club Ashdod in 2012, was in talks with English Championship side Blackburn Rovers over a possible loan switch. Ambrose had been linked with a move to Hibs but told told “I’m not joining Hibernian but I know where I am going soon.”