BRENDAN RODGERS admits Celtic would “love to keep” Matt O’Riley.
But the Hoops boss acknowledges the on-fire midfielder might not commit to a long-term contract at the champions.
O’Riley has been a revelation since arriving at Parkhead in January 2022 in a cut-price £1.5million switch from English third-tier club MK Dons.
His value has soared during his time in Glasgow and he was almost prised from the club’s grasp by Leeds United in the summer when the Yorkshire outfit made a £10million bid for his services.
THREE CHEERS…Callum McGregor and Liam Scales congratulate Matt O’Riley on his goal against Livingston in the 3-0 win last weekend.
Rodgers and the club’s hierarchy managed to resist the offer and, to his credit, the playmaker didn’t make waves in an effort to return across the border after just over a year and a half in Scotland.
Scotland’s title kings have been working overtime in the background to shore up their squad with the likes of skipper Callum McGregor, Japanese double-act Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda, Israeli winger Liel Abada and Scottish defensive pair Anthony Ralston and Stephen Welsh commiting to the club by penning new long-term deals.
Reports indicate Reo Hatate is also about to put pen to paper and O’Riley is also in discussions over a lucrative extension.
Asked if he planned on making the Londoner, who is on the verge of stepping up to the senior set-up at his adopted nation Denmark, a cornerstone of his team for years to come, Rodgers answered: “I would love to – but we have been here before, haven’t we?
“This is the beauty of me coming back. The experience tells me when players are at a certain point. He is in his third year now. I said to him in pre-season: ‘I can make you a better player and improve you as a player’.
“But, naturally, what happens at Celtic is that you improve and develop and then, you know….
IT TAKES TWO…Matt O’Riley and Daizen Maeda celebrate another strike against Livingston.
“I am not wishing him out the door, of course. But he is 22 years of age. Funnily enough, I was talking to Kasper Hjulmund, the Danish national manager, about him the other day. I was giving a report on him and I know Kasper well from dealing with the Danish players I had at Leicester – we have a good relationship.
“I was telling him that from the outside Matt is totally different from when you are inside working with him. So, I just think he needs to keep doing what he is doing.”
Rodgers, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “Of course, we want to keep him here, we would love to keep him here, and I believe that he still has a lot of development to do here.
“But he is showing some great signs. He has a wonderful attitude to the game, he is ambitious – but ambitious for Celtic as well as himself.
“He is investing his time in development. He could have left here. With the greatest respect he could have earned significantly more money by leaving. But that is not everything for him.”
Relegated Leeds, hoping to bounce back to the top flight at the first time of asking, tabled their £10million bid, but the Hoops gaffer, during discussions with chief executive Michael Nicholson, insisted the proposed sale could NOT go through.
CELTIC VIEWS…Brendan Rodgers speaks to the media ahead of tomorrow’s Motherwell game at Fir Park. Image courtesy Celtic TV.
The Irishman added: “Yeah, it was an open conversation and that’s what I’ve always had here with Michael and the guys. I didn’t think we could afford to lose another starter and the club were very supportive of that. They were great.
“We had obviously lost Carl Starfelt and lost Jota and we knew Cameron Carter-Vickers was going to be out for a while. I didn’t feel we could lose another one.
“But, of course, that’s all on the player, as well, because if the player really wants to move and pushes for it, then I’m also a believer that if he doesn’t want to be here then don’t be here.
“I’ve got experience of that where you think you can keep them for another year, but they are not the same player if they really, really want to go. I never got that feeling at all from Matt.
“He knows that I’m investing in him to help him become better. He still knows he’s got a bit to improve and, hopefully, this part of the season is confirmation for him that I can still improve him as a player and develop him.
“Certainly his value will increase in 12 months’ time.”
O’Riley, who has already surpassed last season’s tally of three goals following his fourth strike of the campaign in the 3-0 win at Livingston last weekend, will get the opportunity to show off his qualities against Motherwell in the 12.30pm kick-off at Fir Park tomorrow.