Brendan Rodgers talks up Jozo Simunovic after St Johnstone win

By David Walton

January 31, 2019

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers last night gave the biggest indication that a centre-back isn’t a priority, by talking up Jozo Simunovic.

The Bosnian put in a good display against St Johnstone last night. The 2-0 success helped take Celtic six points clear at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership table.

And, reported by the BBC, Rodgers went out of his way to praise Simunovic as he deputised in his friend’s absence. The comments came after talking about how long Benkovic could potentially be out for.

Filip Benkovic has made just 16 appearances for Celtic this season (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)

Speaking after the game, Rodgers praised the attributes Simunovic can bring to the team.

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“It is disappointing (Benkovic’s injury) but Jozo Simunovic came in and was excellent tonight.

“(He was) concentrated, alert, defended well, passed it well and when he is like that he is a very good player.”

Likely to start seeing more of Simunovic

This is a big shot in the arm for Simunovic. Before now, the former Dinamo Zagreb centre-back had only played on 16 occasions this season.

The performances of both Dedryck Boyata and Benkovic meant that the centre-back has certainly had to bide his time. But with both defenders now crocked, it’s given him a chance to develop his partnership with Kristoffer Ajer.

But it’s also a big hint that Celtic aren’t going to be looking at any other centre-backs. Given Rodgers’ praise for Simunovic, it wouldn’t be likely for him to be dropped again suddenly for a new arrival.

Kristoffer Ajer will be Simunovic’s defensive partner for the time being (Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Considering Rodgers confirmed last night that he wants just one more player in, it’s unlikely to be a centre-back anyway. Given Celtic’s exhaustive right-back hunt, that’s seen them linked with the likes of Timothy Castagne, Omar Elabdellaoui, and Fernando Fonseca, that’s surely going to be the priority.

It’s debatable whether not bringing in another centre-back is the right thing to do. It all depends on what side of the fence you sit on regarding the Ajer-Simunovic partnership.

But with Jack Hendry and Nir Bitton the only defenders in reserve, it’s difficult to argue that Celtic aren’t short on quality centre-back cover.