RONNY Deila has hailed Craig Gordon as the best goalkeeper he has ever encountered and revealed his new contract with Celtic is a reward for joining them on initially low wages last year.
Gordon has proved to be an inspirational signing for the Scottish champions after spending two years out of football with a serious knee injury which threatened to end his career.
The 32-year-old’s exceptional form last season earned him a recall to the Scotland squad and saw him named Player of the Year by the Scottish Football Writers’ Association.
Gordon’s contract was due to expire next summer but he penned a new deal on Wednesday which will run until 2018.
He marked the day by keeping his 30th clean sheet in 55 appearances for Celtic as they defeated Qarabag 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League third qualifying round tie at Parkhead.
“Craig came in here last year and he was not on the biggest salary,” said Deila. “But he has done so well and we want to keep him for many years.
“We are also giving him something back for the hard work he has done, so it was positive for him and the club. He could have stopped playing and taken his money from insurance and things because of the injury but he wanted to keep playing and that shows how ambitious he is.
“Craig has done very well for us and will be very important for the future.
“If we concede stupid goals and don’t score them, it doesn’t matter how hard anyone else plays.
“He is the best goalkeeper I have ever seen.
“He is an English Premier League quality player, but how he compares to the best ones down there, I don’t know.
“Is he still worth the £9 million Sunderland paid for him?
“For us he is. With his age now, his value may not be as high as before, but he might be even better than he was at that time.
“I can understand interest from England because he had a very good season last year and he will be even better this year as he’ll get a lot of matches played and more consistency.”
Gordon also has the incentive of trying to reclaim the Scotland goalkeeper’s jersey from David Marshall as the national team attempt to reach next year’s European Championship finals in France.
“I don’t know how good the other Scotland keepers are so it’s hard for me to say if he can be number one,” added Deila.
“But, then again, they will have to be very good to keep Craig out because he is playing on a high level.
“Hopefully, we can get into the Champions League group stages and he can show himself there as well as being the level he plays at.”
Deila, meanwhile, has dismissed reports in the Belgian media linking Celtic with a move for 30-year-old Club Brugge striker Tom De Sutter.
“I’ve no idea about that,” said Deila. “It’s a new one for me.”