Brendan Rodgers knew he had a secret weapon in his battle to sign star striker Moussa Dembele for Celtic – his relationship at Liverpool with Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling.
Dembele has enjoyed a stunning season north of the border as Celtic broke the record for unbeaten games of 26 previously held by the Lisbon Lions.
The 20-year-old Frenchman has scored 27 goals in 41 appearances this season after becoming Rodgers’ first signing at Celtic Park.
A host of top clubs around Europe are now hovering as Dembele’s agent revealed how Rodgers was able to grab the youngster for a compensation package worth only around £500,000 after his contract wound down at Fulham.
“Brendan was clear. He explained that Celtic could not pay what some of the other clubs in Europe could pay, Mamadi Fofana told the Daily Record.
“He even knew what those other offers were. Brendan knew what was going on. But what he promised Moussa was that he’d have fun, he’d get his chances to play and he’d be at a top club with everything put in place for him to become a better player, so long as you are willing to work.
“He said, ‘If you don’t believe me, take my phone, call Luis Suarez and ask him what he thinks about me, call Raheem Sterling. I’ve developed many players and you can be one of those, but it’s up to you. You will get money in your life, but right now, you are young enough to work and learn and then the big money will follow.’
“That was roughly the speech and the fact it was coming from a world-class manager was a turning point for Moussa. He was convinced.
“Although things had to be sorted financially, Brendan wanted Moussa to be his first signing and he was.
“The rest of the story is obvious to everyone.”
Despite some claims to the contrary, Rodgers’ relationship with his former Liverpool stars has clearly always remained strong.
Agent Aidy Ward suggested the relationship between Sterling and Rodgers had broken down as he did everything he could to secure the winger’s move to Manchester City.
The player himself though told a different story.
When he left Anfield, Sterling said: “I want to thank Brendan Rodgers for giving me a chance and an opportunity in the first team, giving me my full debut – against City funnily enough – and giving me a real chance to cement a place in the first team and show the world my talents.”
Suarez too has regularly voiced his approval for his former Anfield boss.
When Rodgers joined Celtic, the Barcelona man said: “He is one of the best coaches in Europe and I am not surprised he is looking to get back in to the game because it is a game he loves.
“I am glad he has taken his time since leaving Liverpool. He should only be looking at the top jobs, with the top clubs, who will be playing Champions League football.
“If it was not for Brendan, then I know I would not be the same player that you see at Barcelona today.
“Such a big part of my education is down to him and his management.
“Of course he works to make the team stronger but he really works on a one to one level with the players.”