BRENDAN RODGERS has hinted Jozo Simunovic could team up with Kolo Toure as his first-choice central defensive partnership.
The Celtic boss has been impressed by the Croatian Under-21 international who was on the brink of joining Serie A outfit Torino on transfer deadline day.
Simunovic, signed for £3.5million from Dinamo Zagreb last August, came on as a sub in Inverness at the weekend and started last night’s 2-0 League Cup win over Alloa.
It’s his first top team appearances following a nine-month lay-off due to a complicated knee problem that required surgery.
Rodgers said: “He looks a fantastic player and I’m talking more in training than the games.
“He came in at Inverness and the plan was to try and give him game-time against Alloa and get him through 60 minutes. If you look at his profile, he’s 6ft 3in, he’s strong, he’s quick and he’s dominant.
“Jozo shows wonderful mentality for me and he’s a player I really like. If you see him in training he looks impressive. Hopefully, he stays fit and makes his way into the team.”
Asked if the defender could be a regular pick, the Hoops boss replied: “He can be – 150 per cent. He’s a top player and a big talent. I hadn’t seen much of him because he was injured. I can see why he’s highly-rated and I can see why a club such as Torino wanted to take him.
“He’s got all the attributes to be a top centre-half and now it’s about availability and playing.”
Veteran Ivory Coast international Toure was signed after being released by Liverpool at the end of the campaign.
The 35-year-old stalwart was bought to brought stability to the middle of the rearguard and is likely to get the nod more often than not from his former Anfield manager.
Rodgers also has Erik Sviatchenko, Eoghan O’Connell and Dedryck Boyata in contention for the two positions while full-back Mikael Lustig has also filled the void this season.