STEFAN JOHANSEN is hoping to prove there is life at Celtic after Ronny Deila – but only if a new contract can be thrashed out.
The Norwegian midfielder admitted he has just endured a disappointing season, despite the Hoops winning their fifth successive title.
However, Johansen’s form nosedived after winning the Player of the Year award the previous term when he scored 13 goals as the league and League Cup were claimed.
The 25-year-old, who played for Deila at Stromsgodset before signing for Neil Lennon in January 2014, netted a mere four in the last campaign and there were mutterings – and unfounded claims – of “favouritism” in his fellow-Norwegian’s team selection process.
Johansen is grateful for how his ex-manager helped his career, but he is adamant he can find renewed success without him.
He said: “I hope it is not only under Ronny Deila that I can play football. Last season, we did not achieve the results we wanted.
“Yes, we won the league, but it’s not enough. At least, not for the fans. We need to be in the Champions League.
“Ronny had a chat with us players before his departure became public and shared his thoughts in a very nice way.
“We have worked together a long time and it has been very, very good. Ronny is still a young coach with everything ahead of him. I am quite sure he will be successful wherever he goes next in his career.”
Brendan Rodgers is weighing his personnel options as he prepares for the challenge of managing his boyhood heroes. Even Deila admitted his midfield was top-heavy with players and the Irishman could slim down that particular part of his squad.
Johansen, who will play for his nation in a friendly against Portugal tomorrow night, could be one of the players heading for the Parkhead exit and he confirmed that a contract extension has still not been agreed.
He added: “We have been in contract negotiations for a while, but I have not signed anything yet. We’ll see if it happens or not.
“I completely trust that my agent does what is best for me. I have a year left on my contract with Celtic and I’m focusing on that. I will not say any more.”
Johansen could strike a pre-contract arrangement with another team at the turn of the year and walk away on a Bosman next summer.
If the stalemate in talks continues, the champions will be understandably unwilling to risk the prospect of losing a current international player for nothing.
If not before, discussions will occur when Johansen returns to Glasgow for pre-season training in the latter part of next month.
New boss Rodgers is currently preparing plans for the Champions League qualifiers and, after two consecutive seasons of failure under Deila, a return to the group stage is a priority.
The Parkhead club will learn their initial opponents on June 20 before Rodgers encounters his first competitive match on July 12 or 13.
Presuming they don’t suffer an early disaster, Celtic will have played four of the six qualifiers needed to reach the group stage before the new SPFL Premiership season begins on the weekend of August 6.
Johansen may – or may not – have a role to play.