VIRGIL VAN DIJK will captain Celtic in tomorrow night’s SPFL encounter against Partick Thistle at Parkhead in the absence of the suspended Scott Brown.
The classy Dutch central defender has become a key figure in Ronny Deila’s plans and will be making his 50th appearance of the campaign against the Jags.
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Van Dijk’s imressive and consistent form has, of course, attracted envious glances from the English top flight, but Deila is determined to hold onto him, at least until the Hoops’ bid to return to the Champions League is determined.Celtic are favourites to lift their fourth successive crown and the Euro qualifiers kick-off in mid-July. The play-offs will conclude on August 26 and will carry a massive cash bounty from UEFA of around £18million, plus a huge bonus from new kit sponsors, New Balance.
That’s five days before the summer transfer window closes.
Van Dijk was unhappy when speculation about a move to England failed to materialise during last summer’s transfer window and Deila felt it necessary to allow him time away from playing to get his head straight.
The player, who still has two years of his contract to run, admitted: “There was a lot of talking going on in the summer that I wanted to leave and that there were clubs interested.
“Everyone was not so positive around me. But, I’m still only 23 and just enjoy playing here.”
Both the manager and the player are in agreement this second season spent with Celtic since his £2.6m move from Groningen has been best for both parties.
And Van Dijk has given even more hints he is not about to rock the boat during the bid to land a treble
After 95 appearances in two seasons, he recognises a lot more is now expected of him because of what he has already shown.But he is thriving on that pressure because he knows it is the kind of challenge he needs to get to where he wants in the game.
Van Dijk added: “I think I’ve made a lot of progress and there is a big chance we are going to win the treble.
“I want to write some history here.”