Gor­don in line for a bumper pay packet

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BREN­DAN RODGERS, the Celtic man­ager, has in­ti­mated that Craig Gor­don will be in line for a sig­nif­i­cant hike in salary as the Park­head side re­it­er­ated that the Scot­land in­ter­na­tion­al­ist will not be sold be­fore the end of the Jan­uary trans­fer win­dow, write Alison McConnell and Stewart Weir.

How­ever, Her­ald Sport un­der­stands that rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Gor­don met in Glas­gow yes­ter­day with Celtic CEO Peter Lawwell. And, while they are aware of ru­mours about a new con­tract with the Scot­tish cham­pi­ons for Gor­don, they also ex­pect Chelsea to make an­other of­fer for the 34-yearold goal­keeper.

At that point, Gor­don – highly rated by Chelsea coach An­to­nio Conte be­cause of his in­ter­na­tional and Cham­pi­ons League ex­pe­ri­ence – is likely to ask Celtic for per­mis­sion to speak to the Stam­ford Bridge side, to as­cer­tain

the fi­nan­cial pack­age, so heap­ing pres­sure on man­ager Rodgers and the club ahead of the Tues­day’s dead­line.

Chelsea had an of­fer for the for­mer Hearts and Sun­der­land goal­keeper re­jected this week as they seek a re­place­ment for As­mir Be­govic, who is in line for a £12m switch to Bournemouth.

How­ever, while spec­u­la­tion over Gor­don’s fu­ture in­ten­si­fied, yes­ter­day, when asked if he ex­pected the player to still be in Glas­gow after Tues­day night’s win­dow closes, Rodgers was un­am­bigu­ous with his re­sponse.

“Ab­so­lutely,” said the Celtic man­ager. “Be­cause the strength is with the club. There are 18 months left here and where do I get an­other goal­keeper at this stage, when I am look­ing to build some­thing?

“It’s been a long, hard road for Craig in the open­ing pe­riod here to get to the level where I wanted him to be at but he took it on board, trained hard and he un­der­stood it. I’m not re­ally of the mind­set to throw that out and be left hav­ing to look for an­other Cham­pi­ons League goal­keeper. At the minute, there is no choice. It’s hy­po­thet­i­cal.”

Gor­don is con­tracted to Celtic un­til June 2018 but the keeper can ex­pect to be in line for a bumper new deal over the com­ing weeks as Rodgers looks to hang on to him.

“Craig is en­joy­ing it here but as a club we have to look after him as well,” he said. “That’s the mes­sage. I al­ways say, ‘Look after the roof when it’s sunny. Don’t wait to fix it when it’s rain­ing’. The best clubs do that. Craig is in a bril­liant po­si­tion now. He’s in pole po­si­tion. This is the best place for Craig but like I have al­ways said, it’s about game-time and money.”

Rodgers called Gor­don into the club when Thurs­day’s bid, be­lieved to be well be­low Celtic’s val­u­a­tion, was re­jected and he be­lieves the goal­keeper’s pri­or­ity is to play foot­ball. Gor­don missed two sea­sons through se­ri­ous in­jury and while there was an ac­knowl­edge­ment that the deal on of­fer at Chelsea would be en­tic­ing, the Celtic man­ager main­tains there are other as­pects of the game that mo­ti­vate the player.

“I have spo­ken to him at length,” said Rodgers. “He’s a good guy. I was only aware of it yes­ter­day so I sent him a mes­sage and said come in, let’s have a chat. He’s cool and calm. It’s nice and flat­ter­ing for him. Lis­ten, he also re­spects the po­si­tion he was in a few years ago.

“He wasn’t play­ing, Celtic gave him an op­por­tu­nity and I think in the last six months his game I think ev­ery­one can see has gone to an­other level, he has re­gained his in­ter­na­tional place. Chelsea is a fan­tas­tic club but it’s also about what you want and for him now it has to be about play­ing and play­ing games and play­ing for as long as he can.

“But again: there is no in­ter­est to sell. There has been ab­so­lutely nowhere near the val­u­a­tion. I’ve said it be­fore and I’ll re­peat it again: no player will ever come out of Celtic cheap, if they are to go. That’s not some­thing I would be look­ing to do at this stage, with four days to go.”

While Chelsea’s in­ter­est in Gor­don guar­an­tees the player a bet­ter con­tract at Celtic, Rodgers is well aware that the cost of that pales in com­par­i­son to the cost of re­plac­ing him.

“There is talk of Be­govic be­ing £10m or £12m, so you are not go­ing to sell one and bring one in to re­place for say £2m or £3m are you? Why would you do it? You wouldn’t. If that’s the num­bers, but I’ve no in­ter­est in do­ing it for any of the play­ers. We don’t want to sell.”

Mean­while, Henry Onyekuru, the 19-year-old Nige­rian striker who is em­broiled in a want-away saga with Bel­gian club AS Eu­pen has in­sisted that he wants to go to Celtic.

“We will just see what hap­pens,” said Rodgers. “He is a fan­tas­tic player with big at­tributes, but we will see how it de­vel­ops over the next few days.”

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