PAULO BERNARDO is a wanted man at Celtic – after the Portuguese playmaker’s false start at the champions.
The on-loan Benfica midfielder failed to ignite in the early months of his season-long deal, but he has sparked to life in recent games.
Bernardo put in a superb shift and scored the crucial breakthrough goal in the 3-0 win over Dundee at Dens Park on Boxing Day and he continued that form in the derby victory over Philippe Clement’s Ibrox side at Parkhead four days later.
The 21-year-old ace volleyed in a spectacular opener as the hosts swept to a 2-1 triumph before kicking off 2024 with another emphatic performance in the 3-0 success over St Mirren in Paisley 19 days ago.
FOR MY NEXT TRICK…Paulo Bernardo indulges in some ball-juggling in the 3-0 victory over Dundee at Dens Park on Boxing Day.
Once again, Bernardo was outstanding during the 71 minutes he was on the pitch before making way for Reo Hatate.
There is an option to buy in his loan deal with the figure often quoted as £6million, but it is believed that could grow considerably with add-ons.
However, Brendan Rodgers has revealed the cash demanded by the Lisbon giants is NOT a deal breaker and said: “I’m delighted with the emergence of Paulo. There is an agreement with the club, an option for us to activate that, if we want to do it.
“He came in and gradually he has learnt the principles of our play. Leading into the Rangers game last month, I knew he was going to start and we wanted to give him a run of matches. He’s been fantastic.
“And he has got an old head on young shoulders. He’s a top professional. I can see him emerging and growing now as a person, feeling more confident amongst the players.”
PARADISE…Paulo Bernardo salutes the celebrating Celtic fans after his superb striker in the Glasgow derby.
Rodgers, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “He now has real clarity in how we play and how we work – and you see his game flourishing. He’s been excellent and I expect him to get better.
”I can see Paulo is really enjoying his time here. He is improving and developing.
“We’ll assess it. I’ll sit down with him at some point towards the end of the season and take it from there. Do we know the fee involved? Yeah.
“Is the fee realistic? I’m not going to say what it is, but, absolutely, otherwise it wouldn’t be in place.
“But clearly the player would have to agree, as well. It’s a two-way situation.”
Bernardo is likely to get his first taste of Scottish Cup action in the 4pm kick-off against non-league Buckie Thistle at Parkhead today.
* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Celtic v Buckie Thistle this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.