Com­bi­na­tion there but Deila re­fuses to pick it . . .

Van Hooi­j­donk For­mer striker turned agent longs to see client Ciftci along­side Grif­fiths

The Herald - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - GRAEME MCGARRY

NADIR Ciftci’s agent Pierre van Hooi­j­donk has ad­mit­ted that he is wor­ried about the lim­ited im­pact his client has made since join­ing Celtic, and says that man­ager Ronny Deila is play­ing him out of po­si­tion.

Ciftci has strug­gled to make an im­pres­sion on the first team at Celtic Park since his £1.5m sum­mer move from Dundee United, due in part to a six-match ban he re­ceived for bit­ing Dundee’s Jim McAlister whilst at Tan­nadice.

With Deila favour­ing a sys­tem that de­ploys one striker, and with his re­luc­tance to play Ciftci in wide ar­eas, the for­ward has found his start­ing chances lim­ited due to the blis­ter­ing form of Leigh Grif­fiths.

When asked if the lack of im­pact that Ciftci has made at Celtic was be­com­ing a con­cern, van Hooi­j­donk said: “Yes. I re­alised from the be­gin­ning it was go­ing to be dif­fi­cult be­cause of the sus­pen­sion. He only played in the pre­lim­i­nary round of the Cham­pi­ons League and some friendly games.

“The coach sees him as a No.9 and then he has to com­pete with a real No.9 in Leigh Grif­fiths. I’ve said be­fore I think they are two com­pletely dif­fer­ent strik­ers. Leigh is more a poacher and a goalscorer than Nadir is. Nadir has other at­tributes. He can hold up the ball a bit bet­ter, his link up play is bet­ter.

“You also need to re­alise at Dundee United Jackie McNa­mara let him play from the left side. In that role I haven’t seen him yet. At Celtic he just seems to play No.9 or sit on the bench.”

Van Hooi­j­donk be­lieves that a change to Celtic’s sys­tem could be ben­e­fi­cial for all par­ties, with Ciftci pro­vid­ing a foil for goalscorer Grif­fiths.

“I said when Nadir signed, look­ing at the qual­i­ties of both play­ers – not just the qual­i­ties they have but the qual­i­ties they don’t have – they would be the per­fect com­bi­na­tion,” he said.

“I al­ways find it a pity when you have two good strik­ers but you play one. In my day, I was play­ing with Si­mon Don­nelly then Andreas Thom. Then when Jorge Cadete came he was my part­ner up front. If you com­pare the two of us with the two of them now, Jorge was much more the Leigh Grif­fiths.

“I was much more the Nadir. I also liked to be in­volved in the link-up play. Jorge was al­ways on the last line of de­fence look­ing for the fi­nal ball to fin­ish it off. He was al­ways in the box.

“When I first signed for Celtic they were shout­ing at me to get into the box. At that time we didn’t really have some­body else there. But when Cadete came he was al­ways there. So I was still play­ing the same game I’d played be­fore but we had some­one in the box. That’s what I felt was a per­fect com­bi­na­tion.”

Van Hooi­j­donk, speak­ing ahead of Celtic’s Uefa Europa League clash with Ajax, which is live on BT Sport, thinks that the Celtic play­ers need to pro­duce a rous­ing per­for­mance in the match against the Ere­di­visie lead­ers to dis­pel any no­tion that their man­ager is un­der pres­sure, even if they don’t get the win they need to stay in con­tention in the Europa League.

He also urged the Celtic sup­port to re­main pa­tient, as Ajax’s style of play means that they may enjoy the bulk of pos­ses­sion as they try to draw Celtic out.

“I think that ev­ery­one re­alised af­ter the draw that it was go­ing to be a tough group for Celtic,” he added. “Peo­ple would ac­cept it if you don’t get through, but it’s all about the way.

“Apart from Celtic’s match in Am­s­ter­dam which I felt was a good per­for­mance, and maybe the one against Fener­bahce when they gave up a two-goal lead, un­for­tu­nately in the games that they were ex­pected to take points from they didn’t take any. That leaves them in a very dif­fi­cult po­si­tion.

“The only worry that I’ve got for Celtic is be­cause of the home sup­port they will push the team and Ajax are very good at keep­ing the ball, they have a great pos­ses­sion game and that can frus­trate the fans.

“If a team at Celtic Park is hav­ing the ball in their own half or at the back for quite a bit then the fans lose their pa­tience, they start to scream, they shout get for­ward and the dan­ger is you start run­ning like a head­less chicken be­cause of the push you feel from the crowd. And Ajax are ca­pa­ble of play­ing through the lines and they can fin­ish you off. That is a dan­ger.

“On the other side I feel the phys­i­cal pres­ence of Celtic should be im­por­tant. Feyeno­ord played Ajax last month and while Ajax have the bet­ter play­ers and played Feyeno­ord off the park in the first half, in the sec­ond half Feyeno­ord started to win more of the bat­tles and the game com­pletely changed.

“They don’t like the phys­i­cal part of the game. Feyeno­ord beat them in that game and Celtic should try to hurt them where they can and that is by making the game phys­i­cal.”

Watch Celtic v Ajax in the UEFA Europa League live and ex­clu­sive on BT Sport 2 from 7.30pm on Thurs­day. Visit bt­sport.com/Europe for more in­for­ma­tion.

CIFTCI: Striker has found his start­ing chances lim­ited due to form of Grif­fiths

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