Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers concedes that speculation around Moussa Dembele’s future has got to the striker.
The Northern Irishman confirmed that there have been “a couple of enquiries” for the 21-year-old French forward, who sat on the bench for Hoops’ 5-0 William Hill Scottish Cup fourth-round win at home to Ladbrokes Championship bottom side Brechin.
Goals from wingers James Forrest, Scott Sinclair, Olivier Ntcham, Dedryck Boyata and Odsonne Edouard ensured a comfortable afternoon for the holders.
Rodgers enjoyed a “professional performance” by his side against Brechin but when asked if speculation had affected Dembele mentally, he said of a player who has been linked with Brighton and Crystal Palace: “There has been nothing official as yet. I know some enquiries have come through to Peter (Lawwell, chief executive) but nothing concrete.
“The boy is fine, he is training, he is working but it is clear that he has probably not been quite the same as what he has been for probably over a year or so.
“My job as the manager is to ensure that the focus is purely on Celtic and the team.
“He is a good kid and for a lot of players January is a difficult window – lots of speculation – but my job is always to protect the club and make sure that everyone who plays is totally focused.
“We will see what happens between now and the end of the month and will take it from there.”
Rodgers is confident that the France Under-21 forward, who who has notched eight times this season, will still be at Celtic after the transfer window closes to recapture the form which saw him score 32 goals in his first season at Parkhead after signing from Fulham in 2016.
“Yes, 100 per cent, he has come here and done great for us but there has always been speculation around him and for young players it can be difficult,” said the Hoops boss, who is hopeful of adding to his squad before the end of the month.
“I brought him here to develop him and to help Celtic.
“As I say it is a difficult window for players, especially in his case but he has no issues and is no problem.
“I could have played him today but for the dynamic of the team I wanted to put young Odsonne in.
“But he is training, working and if nothing materialised between now and the end of the month, between then and the end of the season we will see that player really focused, fighting, running and working for the team.”
Brechin boss Darren Dods admitted his side had got off to “the worst possible start” after losing two goals in 10 minutes to a strong Celtic side, the first by Forrest after only two minutes.
He said: “Credit to the boys they stuck to their task. It was hard but we managed to contain them.
“We came out in the second half and lost two goals again but we kept going and the disappointment was losing the fifth goal because we worked so hard.”
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