THE prospects of extending Jason Denayer’s stay at Celtic remain in the balance, according to Ronny Deila. The Belgian has shown no enthusiasm for hanging around in Glasgow beyond the completion of his one-year loan deal from Manchester City, with the 19-year-old confident he can push for senior involvement at the Etihad Stadium from the start of the next campaign. The Celtic manager, though, believes that another “half year” in his team competing at the highest level could serve the youngster much better than being a squad player for his parent club.
Denayer has developed into Celtic’s most impressive centre-back, eclipsing partner Virgil van Dijk in this never-ending series against Dundee United that concludes with the league meeting between the sides this afternoon.
The Manchester City defender capped his recent good form by netting in the 4-0 victory with which Deila’s side dispensed with the Tannadice men in the Scottish Cup quarter-final replay that followed last Sunday’s League Cup final triumph. Deila contends that the Denayer’s development across the campaign shows Celtic could continue to provide good school for a promising pupil.
“I still think he should stay here for at least half a year,” the Norwegian said. “Hopefully we go through the Champions League qualification and he can be part of that. To take him away and have him sitting on the bench at Manchester City would not be good for his career. I talk with Jason a lot but it’s not just about us and him, it’s about what Manchester City think also.
“He will go back there for pre-season but we will see what is possible after that, if we can do something. If he does well down there and starts playing at City it will be tough to get him back. He will try and do that and you never know what could happen. But if you’re in a good place and are developing all the time then it’s important to appreciate that and not go somewhere else and sit on the bench again.”
Development, playing time and valuable experience all appear to have been denied another member of the Celtic squad, in part because of a Manchester City connection. The treatment of Stefan Scepovic by Deila has appeared curious this season. The Serbian arrived in a £2.3m deal from Sporting Gijon that made him the only player Celtic paid a transfer fee for during the summer. Deila spoke confidently of Scepovic being an important player for the club as the target man they otherwise lacked.
Yet, the 24-year-old has not started a game since he scored in the 2-0 victory over Kilmarnock on 5 January. Although on-loan City striker John Guidetti has looked wooden and lacking focus after blanking a contract offer from the Scottish champions, Deila has persisted in giving the Swede game time – as first change for Leigh Griffiths – ahead of Scepovic. As a result, the summer buy has made only one senior appearance in the past two months – which amounted to three minutes in 1-1 Scottish Cup quarter-final draw at Tannadice a fortnight ago.
“The story with Stefan is that we have big competition up front. Leigh has played well now and Guidetti also has played some good games,” Deila said in response to the suggestion that his fringe status seemed to suggest he had not bought in to the Deila demand for constant self-improvement. “Stefan has some things he needs to work on and he’s doing that. He will get his chance again, then he has to be ready. I have to see in training and matches that he’s making improvement. He needs to be better in different issues.”
Meanwhile, news that Real Madrid might be considering farming out 16-year-old wunderkind Martin Odegaard, who Deila blooded at Stromsgodset, had Deila pricking up his ears this week. Odegaard has been linked with a move to Southampton, but the Celtic manager maintained he would offer an alternative to that switch.
“I haven’t heard his situation had changed, but if it’s true he’s going to be loaned out then we will check and see what is possible,” he said.