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‘HANDS OFF STAR MAN JOZO,’ RODGERS

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CELTIC boss Brendan Rodgers has warned English clubs to forget about attempting to sign Jozo Simunovic.
The Hoops almost sold the Croatian Under-21 international central defender to Torino during the August transfer window.
The deal fell through and now the Parkhead boss is delighted Simunovic, bought last year from Dinamo Zagreb for £3.5million, is still with the champions. The Italians must be absolutely kicking themselves at the moment but their loss is clearly Celtic’s gain.
Rodgers was impressed by the defender’s performance in the 1-0 Betfred League Cup semi-final at Hampden at the weekend.
Simunovic is still getting back to full match fitness after the 22-year-old was sidelined for most of last season with a knee injury.
The Celtic manager has heard of the reported interest from across the border with Crystal Palace and Newcastle already believed to be monitoring the player closely ahead of the transfer window reopening in January.

However, Rodgers insisted: “I see Jozo’s future very much here. He has been out injured and probably hasn’t had that consistent run as a Celtic player.

“But he has everything really. He is good in the air, quick and serves the ball well.

“I have been involved at both ends of the Premier League, so I know the finances involved. It’s very hard if a player is offered 80, 90 or 100 grand a week to say no to that.

“But, being a young player, Jozo has time. He just needs to get back fit and becoming available for every game.unspecified-90

“Once he does that and shows consistently how he has been in the last number of weeks – if he can have a run like that over the next couple of years – then, of course, he is going to be a sought-after player.

“Centre-halves and strikers, in particular, are very much in demand. If you have a top one then even more so.

“I’m not aware of other clubs looking, but there is always speculation around players, isn’t there?

“Jozo, though, is a big player for us. I said at the time that I was delighted he never went to Torino. I hadn’t seen a lot of him at that stage. That was the thing.

“Thankfully, it fell through and he stayed. As soon as you saw him back in training, you thought: ‘Once this boy is fit, we have a proper player here.’

“You saw the ease with which he went through the game on Sunday.

“Both centre-halves were outstanding. I’m having to manage him back in because he’s been out for so long. You just have to be careful with a young player when he’s had that injury.

“You can’t just throw him into three games in a week, hence the reason I brought Kolo Toure with his experience. And Kolo can’t play three games in a row and that’s the honesty of that.

“But Erik Sviatchenko alongside has been the pillar, he’s been really consistent, looks composed and calm on the ball – but he defends on the front foot, he’s pushing things forward and is becoming a real leader in there.”

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