‘Brown could’ve played in my Liverpool team’
N inevitable consequence of a player performing well for Celtic is that clubs in England will attempt to lure him away with the offer of far higher wages. In recent years, Fraser Forster, Gary Hooper, Ki Sung-Yueng, Virgil van Dijk and Victor Wanyama have all jumped at moves after multi-million pound fees were received.
It seems likely that Moussa Dembele, who scored his 15th goal in 21 appearances in the 4-0 win over Ross County on Wednesday night, will be the latest star to take that well-trodden path.
A Manchester United scout was at the Global Energy Arena watching the 20-year-old and it will be little surprise if the Old Trafford club, or one of their Barclays Premier League rivals, tables a bid either in January or next summer.
Brendan Rodgers, though, is hopeful the French centre forward will realise the benefit of staying at Parkhead for the foreseeable future at least.
The fact that Scott Brown, the Parkhead club’s talismanic captain, has stayed for nine years despite intermittent interest from England also gives him hope that he can keep the nucleus of his squad together despite the money on offer elsewhere.
Rodgers believes that Brown would have flourished down south. Indeed, he feels the midfielder would have been good enough to feature in the Liverpool team which came close to winning the English title under him two years ago. “Scott is someone I’ve been so impressed with since I first met him in my house earlier on in the season,” he said.
“He’s just really devoted himself to how I’ve wanted the team to operate on the field and off it. If he has played at a better level than he’s at just now, both physically and tactically, then I’d be surprised.
“The biggest compliment I can give him is that, having worked in what is supposedly the best league in the world in terms of being the most competitive league in the world, Scott Brown would definitely have been in my Liverpool team that nearly won the title.
“There’s no doubt about that – so that’s the level that the guy is at as a player and as a captain. You want him on your team and on your side. It’s the biggest accolade that I can give him. But thankfully he’s chosen to play nearly 10 years at Celtic and still looks as strong and fit.”
Rodgers added: “I think there was interest in Scott from England. I remember Harry Redknapp at Tottenham wanting to take him there, Harry told me that. There’s no doubt he’s had moves where he could’ve left here. But he was happy in his life and happy here at Celtic.
“If money’s not the consideration, and no one can deny any player or any person the chance to consider doubling or trebling your salary, then other things come into it.
“Scott’s always been happy here and the supporters love him, they see his worth and probably even more at this stage. So he can certainly retire in the comfort that he could probably have played in that league and at the biggest level.
“But he’s happy and that’s the most important thing in life.”
Asked if he feared his players like Dembele would leave as a result of their impressive form for Celtic this term, Rodgers said: “Absolutely, there’s that fear. There’s a lot of talk around a lot of the players.
“But I think they know they’re part of something special as well. Young guys like Moussa have come up here at 19, and they knew why they were coming. They knew they were coming into a coaching environment at a huge club which is going to extend them and test them under pressure. So, he’s loving and enjoying every minute of it.
“Boys like Scott Sinclair, with a Premier League background, he’s come up here and he’s really happy. Some of these guys will tell you, especially those experienced players who have been unhappy, that means everything. It’s a club that is a real privilege to either manage or play for. The boys are finding that out.
“But, of course, it’s going to be the case there will always be interest round very good players.
“But what we have to do is create an environment that they absolutely love and for the length of time they are here maximise what we get out of them.
“If they move on then also ensure that the club benefits from it. Then we have to have a process in place here in bringing in players consistently, so if we lose one we bring in another one, if not a better one.”