Glasgow (AFP) – Old Firm rivals Celtic and Rangers are desperate to hang on to their star strikers in the closing days of January’s transfer window despite talk Moussa Dembele and Alfredo Morelos could both be about to leave Glasgow.
Dembele — an unused substitute in Celtic’s 2-1 win over Partick Thistle in midweek — looked to be heading for the Parkhead exit door amid reported interest from English Premier League sides Brighton and Crystal Palace.
However, speaking ahead of his club’s clash with Hibernian on Saturday, Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers said the champions had no interest in selling the France Under-21 international.
And the Northern Irishman revealed Celtic had already rejected a bid from an unnamed club which was well below their own valuation of Dembele.
“We brought him here as a talented young player at 19 and he has shown that talent,” Rodgers said of Dembele, who is contracted to stay with reigning Scottish champions Celtic until 2020.
“He has never asked once to leave. He is fully committed to Celtic.”
The former Liverpool manager added: “We have had one official bid for him that is nowhere near the value of what the value of Moussa is. But equal to that, we have no interest in selling him.”
– ‘Mind can wander’ –
Dembele was a revelation in his debut season following his switch from Fulham as his 32 goals helped fire Celtic to an unbeaten domestic treble.
However, the 21-year-old has struggled to replicate that form this season with just eight goals in 21 matches prompting Rodgers to suggest that the transfer speculation had taken the edge off his game.
“He has been linked with so many teams so naturally the mind can wander,” Rodgers said.
“In defence of the player, because it is important for supporters to understand, this is a boy that is fully committed to Celtic,” added the manager, whose table-toppers are already 11 points clear of second-placed Rangers, their arch Glasgow rivals.
“He is a really good boy who we want to keep here and the only thing that would ever take him away is if he didn’t want to be here, and if that is the case then someone would have to meet his value and at this moment at time, neither is the case.”
It was a similar story on the south side of Glasgow, with Rangers manager Graeme Murty forced to answer questions about the future of Morelos, the Scottish Premiership’s top scorer so far this season, amid reports the Colombia striker gave a television interview in his homeland where he revealed he was dreaming of a move to England.
– ‘Barrowload of cash’ –
Morelos, a pre-season signing from HJK Helsinki, scored his 13th goal of the campaign during Rangers’ 2-0 win over Aberdeen on Wednesday that saw the Gers climb into second place.
Murty said it would take a big money bid to prise him away from Ibrox.
“Unless someone walks in with a barrowload of cash — and a big barrowload — he will be a Rangers player,” insisted Murty ahead of his side’s clash away to Ross County on Sunday.
“I want players who have aspirations to be in a better place. Hopefully we can get better at Rangers.
“But the big prize is to play in the Premier League. If we have someone good enough to go there, it’s fantastic for us.”
Fixtures (1500 GMT unless stated):
Saturday: Aberdeen v Kilmarnock, Celtic v Hibernian, Hamilton v Dundee, Hearts v Motherwell, St Johnstone v Partick Thistle
Sunday: Ross County v Rangers (1400 GMT)
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