We need to strengthen Celtic squad, insists Brendan Rodgers
The Celtic manager, who is adamant his club must strengthen their squad, revealed the Scottish champions have turned down one formal bid for Dembele, who has been linked with English Premier League clubs Crystal Palace and Brighton this month.
Italian side Roma are the latest to be credited with an interest in the French under-21 international, potentially as a replacement for Edin Dzeko should they sell the former Manchester City forward to Chelsea.
Dembele, who has scored 40 goals in 70 appearances for Celtic since joining them from Fulham in the summer of 2016, has been an unused substitute in both of his team’s games since their return from the winter break.
But although Rodgers and his assistant Chris Davies have both openly admitted in recent days that the player’s head has been turned by the prospect of a move to the English Premier League, the manager is adamant he has no issues with Dembele’s attitude.
“The situation with Moussa is absolutely fine,” said Rodgers. “The boy has two and a half years left on his deal here but there’s a lot of speculation. We don’t want to sell him. Simple as that. We’ve had one bid that’s come in and it’s way under his value to us. But the message is – we don’t want to sell.
“His behaviour has been great. Yes, there was a slight change in his focus that moved away, which I can understand and I think everyone can understand why that is.
“But Moussa has been training well. This is a really unstable time for a lot of players and you’ll have seen and heard about players in this situation downing tools or going AWOL. This kid has never done that. He’s never once asked to leave.
“I know what his plan is from when I sat with him and his agent before he signed for us. There was an option there [in terms of the bid which came in] but the club didn’t want to take it because it was nowhere near the value.
“As I say, we don’t want to sell him. When all of this dies down, the group becomes stronger again.
“I don’t think there’s an issue with him. He’s not stomping his feet to leave. Moussa knows where he is at and if he’s still here for the second part of the season then he’ll contribute and do well for us.”
Rodgers insists his decision to leave Dembele on the bench for the last two games against Brechin City and Partick Thistle were not intended as a slight on the 21-year-old.
“I have said since my first day in here that I always pick a team on attitude and energy,” added Rodgers.
“That never changes. Whether someone is playing or not, that’s what we look for and it’s nothing personal. It’s about what the team needs.”
Rodgers is also in no doubt that his squad is in need of further reinforcements before the transfer window closes next week. So far, the January window has seen Celtic make just two signings in the shape of German defender Marvin Compper from RB Leipzig and St Mirren midfielder Lewis Morgan who has been loaned back to the Paisley club for the rest of the season.
“For me, we have to strengthen,” said Rodgers. “We have to. There’s no question that’s something we need to do.
“I’m very happy with the group of players that I have. We’ll also have some returning from injury who will make us stronger again. But we wanted to bring in players in this window who would add quality. Sometimes that takes a wee bit of time.
“You’re not just relying on going and paying the money. You need to rely on the timing from the other club so we’re hopeful we can bring in that quality.
“I could have signed 20 players up until now, or more. I could have changed my whole squad if I wanted to. But I needed to make sure it was the right quality, not just domestically but for any European football we might have further down the line.
“So that’s where we are and the club is working very hard. I know it’s boring and there’s nothing to write about. For the supporters it’s the same. But we’re working very hard to get the right ones in. That will allow us to be better. I’m happy with the squad but we want to make it stronger.”