Celtic, despite a slow start to their title defence, have regained momentum and reclaimed the leading spot in the Scottish Premiership. They have also made it to the finals of League Cup and are pretty much in contention to enter the knockouts of the prestigious Europa League following a stupendous win over Bundesliga big boys RB Leipzig before the international break. Although major injury woes troubled them at times on essential occasions, Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers must be delighted now in the aftermath of Claude Peul’s decision over on-loan Filip Benkovic’s immediate future.
Puel, the Leicester City chief, has the option to recall Benkovic in January but wants him to enjoy his football in Scotland where he is having a successful run with plenty of minutes in the top tier.
“If we don’t have any problems with injuries for example, I would like my players on loan to continue their progress, to continue to develop, to take confidence and develop consistency.”
As confirmed by the Frenchman via The Scottish Sun.
The £13m summer recruit from Dinamo Zagreb was immediately offloaded to Parkhead for game-time over being understudy to Wes Morgan, Jonny Evans, Harry Maguire and Caglar Soyuncu in Leicester. Rodgers, meanwhile, was having a crisis at the back due to fitness concerns of Kristoffer Ajer, Jozo Simunovic and Marvin Compper whereas Dedryck Boyata was desperate to move out amid offers from abroad.
The inclusion of Benkovic restored stability in deep defence. Also, Celtic’s successful retention of the Belgian professional beyond this summer window allowed them to have a temporary yet resilient central defensive force prepared for a long season ahead.
Boyata, however, might still depart in January but the Benkovic boost would allow the gaffer to conclude the season on a higher note with the Croatian tipped to play a central role in Celtic’s ‘back four’. Rodgers understandably wanted to him tie down permanently but, at the same time, admitted the difficulty of the deal in a previous interview.
The 6 ft 4 in centre-back is very much in Puel’s plan and must be viewed as a long-term successor of veteran Wes Morgan who would be 35 in less than a couple of month’s time. The Hoops, therefore, should eye alternatives to rebuild the backline once the season is over but are entitled to set their objectives for the ongoing term with Benkovic as one of the most indispensable resources ahead of a busy schedule both at home as well as Europe.