THE last time Celtic faced Philippe Clement’s Ibrox side at Parkhead Paulo Bernardo was a smash-hit success.

The on-loan Benfica midfielder fired a spectacular volley beyond the desperately-diving Jack Butland to give Celtic a first-half advantage that paved the way for the hosts’ crucial 2-1 victory on December 30.

Bernardo made a cameo appearance as a late replacement for Matt O’Riley in the 3-3 stalemate in Govan last month – and the best the Portuguese playmake can hope for in the latest episode of the derby saga due for Saturday will be something similar.

GLASGOW BELONGS TO ME…Paulo Bernardo thunders Celtic into the lead in the 2-1 derby success at Parkhead on December 30.

Brendan Rodgers has been impressed by the range of skills of the middle-of-the-park operator, but sources in the player’s homeland have indicated the Hoops hierarchy are not convinced  about the reported evaluation of £6.3million and “will push the matter towards the end of the season to try to renegotiate the price”, as CQN reported in March.

The former Portugal Under-21 star is under contract at the Lisbon giants until 2027, but has been unable to gatecrash head coach Roger Schmidt’s first-team squad.

Bernardo had a slow start to his temporary switch to the champions, but ignited in his new surroundings just before the turn of the year with an eye-catching performance in the 3-0 win over Dundee at Dens Park on Boxing Day when he scored his first goal for the Hoops.

PARADISE…Paulo Bernardo acknowledges the Celtic fans after his derby strike.

He followed that up with his breathtaking first-time drive from the edge of the box against Philippe Clement’s shell-shocked visitors before Kyogo Furuhashi curled in what turned out to be the winner shortly after the turnaround.

The clock is ticking on 22-year-old Bernardo’s opportunity to compel Rodgers to make the move permanent – but there could be some manoeuvrability in the asking fee.

Benfica had placed the option of a £6.5million transfer for Filipe Jota when he went on loan to the Hoops in August 2021.

The Parkhead club triggered the deal 12 months later. It was too late for the Lisbon outfit to demand more for their impressive player, but they managed to negotiate a whopping 40 per cent fee of the profits of any sell-on fee.

They cashed in big-style when the former Celtic fans’ favourite moved to Saudi Arabia for £25million in July last year.

HOOP HOOP HOORAY…Paulo Bernardo celebrates his goal in the 3-0 win at Livingston in March.

It’s feasible the Portuguse giants will again view the champions as a viable prospect in attracting another buyer – if, of course, Bernardo performs to expected levels in Scotland and in European competition.

If Celtic can drive the asking fee down, Benfica will certainly demand a written understanding along the lines of the Jota deal if the stylish performer was to follow his former youth team-mate and leave Glasgow in a massive switch a year or so later.

In the meantime, Bernardo has three Premiership games – against Rangers, Kilmarnock and St Mirren – and a derby Scottish Cup Final on May 25 to attempt to impress Rodgers and kick-start summer negotiations.

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