Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has backed Craig Gordon to enjoy Edwin van der Sar-style longevity at the Scottish champions after claiming opposition managers now say he is better with the ball at his feet than “some of their centre-halves”.
The keeper, who will celebrate his 34th birthday by travelling to Ibrox for the Hogmanay derby, was initially dropped because he was not then playing the passing style demanded by the Irishman. Now he is “definitely one I want to keep” according to Rodgers and there would seem little doubt that the Scotland international will earn a new deal beyond having a one-year option triggered next summer.
He will do so because Rodgers sees him transformed into an international class sweeper-keeper across his half-season at the helm.
“You see now a different goalkeeper to when I first came in,” said the Irishman, who dropped Gordon early on as he did not then playing the passing style he demands from his keeper.
“How sure, how calm he is. He still has a lot of games in him. He’s 34 soon but he’s a top goalkeeper who looks after his body, and lives his life the right away.
“The Edwin van der Sars go on to 40. He has a good few years left.
“Craig is a good guy as well. A really humble person. At his age he could easily have said ‘that’s it’ but he went away and wanted to be better and learn what I want from a keeper and take his game to another level. He has done against Manchester City and away in Monchengladbach. He’s done it in big games.
“Now, when I speak to managers after games, they all talk about how Gordon is so good, he’s better than some of my centre-halves.
“That’s a player who six months ago was getting rid of the ball. Now he’s passing it. There is a difference. He’s a footballer, not a goalkeeper.
“Players love growth. They want to get better. When we have the ball we have 11 players, When we don’t have the ball we are all defenders.
“I think his past injuries could put years on to the end of his career. There are not so many miles on the clock.
“He is really enjoying this way of working. He is contributing to the team and feels that, even when he doesn’t have lot to do.
“He can see how the top goalkeepers in the world function. The way they play football, and he’s been a real important player for us.”