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Love can keep sought-after Celtic star Virgil Van Dijk at Parkhead

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk should stay another season at a place where "he is loved" before he seeks new suitors, according to coach John Kennedy.

Speculation continues to surround the 23-year-old Dutch defender, who has been linked with several clubs including Arsenal and Southampton.

And Van Dijk, who signed a four-year deal when he arrived from Groningen in 2013, was quoted this week as saying: "Celtic are a great club with a fantastic stadium and the fans are great, but the competition is not too good.

"I want to develop. If the opportunity is there, I would definitely consider a transfer."

Speaking ahead of tonight's trip to St Johnstone, Kennedy pointed to the prospect of Champions League football next season, along with the high esteem in which the player is held at Parkhead, as he advised staying another season.

He said: "We can't stop the media speculating on him moving or teams coming to watch him, but he's our player, he's got two years on his contract and we want to keep him because we think we can take him to another level.

"There will come a point where he is ready to make that step.

"I'm not saying he's not ready now, but playing in the Champions League with us, playing somewhere he is loved and given the opportunity to develop, then a year down the line he is probably ready to make that step.

"He's got all the tools in the toolbox to be a top defender with any side in the world."

Kennedy believes Van Dijk is getting tested plenty at the Parkhead club, most recently in the narrow 1-0 win over runners-up Aberdeen at Pittodrie last week.

He said: "You look at Sunday's game against Aberdeen and I think that's been his biggest test he's had all season in regards to having to defend his box and being put under real pressure.

"What we have is a game plan within every game and he is challenged within that and if we get into Europe he is challenged there all the time, so he's still learning.

"He's improving all the time and he is in a very good place to develop.

"He's at a massive club - people forget that - and there's a lot of players around the world who would like to come here."

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