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New deals for key men a real boost as Celtic eye PSG upset

By Ronnie Esplin

Boss Brendan Rodgers revealed his delight after skipper Scott Brown and Jozo Simunovic signed new deals with Celtic on the eve of their Champions League clash with Paris St Germain.

The Parkhead club confirmed that 32-year-old Scotland captain Brown, who joined the Scottish champions in 2007, has penned a two-year contract which takes him up until at least 2019.

Defender Simunovic, 23, who arrived in Glasgow from Dinamo Zagreb in 2015, has penned a new four-year deal until at least the summer of 2021.

Rodgers is preparing for the visit of free-spending all-star French side PSG in their Group B opener where he will have Leigh Griffiths back after a calf injury but will still be without fellow striker Moussa Dembele as he works his way back from a hamstring complaint.

However, he confirmed the boost the Hoops squad will get from two players happy to extend their time at Celtic.

"I am delighted for both," said the Ulsterman. "Scott has been a great captain here over many years and certainly in the period I have been here, he has consistently played at a very high level. We were talking towards the end of last season and it was a case of just getting the Champions League qualification out of the way and hoping to get something agreed.

"So I am absolutely delighted because he is a very important figure for us on and off the field and I have been delighted at his performance level and how tactically he has been playing.

"Jozo is a young player that, obviously there was a focus on his injury past, but this is a great arena for him to play and he is in an environment where he needs that development and once he is fit and trains and plays consistently he is an outstanding talent.

"So it is great news for our squad because we are trying to build and create something here.

"A lot of our players now are tying into longer deals, which is great. It is a really exciting period and we have one or two others that we will look at to try to ensure the squad remains as stable as possible while looking to progress at the same time."

Last season, Rodgers' first in charge at Parkhead, Celtic finished bottom of their Champions League group which included Barcelona, Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach with three draws.

This season the Scottish champions have German giants Bayern Munich and Belgian champions Anderlecht also in their group, but PSG are the side most of Europe is talking about.

The French club were bolstered in the summer with the signings of Brazilian superstar Neymar, who reportedly cost £200.6m from Barcelona, and 18-year-old French sensation Kylian Mbappe who joined on a season-long loan from Monaco, with an option to make the deal permanent for £166m.

Along with Uruguayan Edinson Cavani, who signed from Napoli in 2013 for a fee reported in many places as £55m, PSG bring with them the most expensive front line ever assembled.

Rodgers believes attitude will be key in dealing with a side built to go all the way in the tournament.

"It should be a great spectacle," said the former Liverpool manager.

"We worked very hard last year in the league and went through a tough qualification phase and this is the competition we wanted to be in. Attitude is everything.

"They are put together to win this competition. There is no question about that, with the quality they have and what they have been building over the last few years and over the summer, bringing in Neymar and Mbappe, who is an amazing young striker. So their focus is on winning it."

Rodgers added about his own team, "Getting ready for our first game 12 months ago, I didn't believe we were at the level we are at now.

"A positive start is what we want."

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