RYAN CHRISTIE’S 18-month loan spell at Aberdeen is likely to seal a long-term deal at Celtic.

Brendan Rodgers admitted his season-and-a-half away from Parkhead has provided the answer to those who doubted the Highlander’s ability to muscle in at the top level.

Christie’s sensational display in the 3-0 landslide Betfred League Cup semi-final victory over Hearts at Murrayfield saw him take centre stage following his appearance after the interval for the injured Olivier Ntcham.

The Hoops boss said: “It was a big step for him at the weekend. When I came in, I had a boy of 64 kilos, who played as a striker against Motherwell, and I felt, okay, here’s a talent, but is he going to play regularly for me?

“I didn’t think he was, but he wasn’t 17 or 18. He was 20, 21, so what would benefit him, thinking medium and longer term? He would benefit from playing games and feeling the pressure week in, week out, because coming from Inverness Caley Thistle to Celtic is a big jump.

“I was thinking of his development. Some players cope straight away when they come in as a 17 year old. Raheem Sterling’s maturation level at that age as an example was a kid who was physically strong. There are some players who mature a bit later.

“I felt that with Ryan and his body type he needed that. We were lucky to send him to a club where he would be under pressure, but still get regular game time. I had a conversation with Derek McInnes and that’s what we looked at.

“Ryan went away and had 18 months playing, he played well and still had to develop and grow, but, at least, he was feeling pressure. Within that period, with the programme we had given him, he went from 64 kilos to 74. That was 10 kilos of muscle there, but he can carry that.

“That helps you with your physicality in the game, it helps him to press the game, it increases his running strength and power as well as his football ability.”

Rodgers added: “What Ryan probably needed was a big moment in an important game. He’s had those at Aberdeen as well in big games, but that can be real spark for his confidence.

“Now you see a boy at 23 who I feel is ready now to really participate.
“It’s about him and what he does on the pitch. He’s a great boy, a good guy and it’s been slow burning for him here, but that was the plan.

“It was about taking his talent and bringing it to fruition and could he take the opportunity.”

Christie is out of contract in the summer, but there will be contract extension talks in the coming months.

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