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Pele hails Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers, declaring Hoops are lucky to have him

By Steven Beacom

Brendan Rodgers will enter his first Old Firm derby as Celtic manager with an extra spring in his step having received high words of praise from legendary Brazilian footballer Pele.

The Carnlough native is a massive admirer of the three-time World Cup winner and will be proud to hear compliments coming in his direction from the man many believe remains the greatest player of all time.

Rodgers is currently preparing for Saturday's Scottish Premiership showdown against Rangers at Parkhead - a game that is currently the talk of Glasgow and beyond.

No doubt Pele's comments in the run up to the first league fixture between the sides since 2012 will become one of the hot topics of discussion relating to the match.

Pele stated that he felt Rodgers helped improve Barcelona striker Luis Suarez when the pair were together at Liverpool, adding that he believed the Ulsterman inspired the Uruguayan superstar on and off the pitch during his time at Anfield.

He added that the Hoops were fortunate to have Rodgers in charge.

"I think Celtic are very lucky to have a manager with the qualities of Brendan," Pele was quoted as saying.

"Luis Suarez was a really good player when he went to Liverpool but I believe Brendan gave him great coaching, guidance and advice and made him a better player and a better person.

"Suarez was prepared well for his move from Liverpool to Barcelona after working under Brendan. Celtic have a good reputation around the world - and have a good manager."

In the summer of 2013, Rodgers told Suarez to train alone when the former Ajax striker was angling for a move away from Anfield.

When the South American returned he excelled and was the driving force behind Liverpool's assault on the Premier League title last season which just fell short.

Since leaving Liverpool in 2014, Suarez has been part of a breathtaking forward three of Lionel Messi and Neymar, winning the Champions League and La Liga with Barcelona.

Rodgers and Suarez met up again in July in Dublin when Celtic played Barcelona in the International Champions Cup.

They will have the opportunity to chat again later this season after the Bhoys and Barca were drawn in the same Champions League group.

The only match and only opponents Rodgers has on his mind right now, though, are big rivals Rangers.

The ex-Swansea boss has already made himself popular with Celtic supporters having guided them to the group stages of the Champions League. An Old Firm victory would cement that adulation.

Meanwhile, former Celtic midfielder Alan Thompson believes Rangers' Joey Barton is susceptible to being wound up in his first Old Firm.

Since signing for the Ibrox club in the summer, the 34-year-old midfielder has made public comments about the Parkhead club and their personnel, perhaps most notably when declaring that Celtic captain Scott Brown is "nowhere near his level".

Thompson, who played for the Hoops between 2000 and 2007 and subsequently had a spell as coach, advised his fellow Englishman to do his talking on the pitch.

Speaking at a William Hill media event in Glasgow, Thompson, who was sent off in his first Old Firm game at Ibrox, told broadcast media when asked if Barton could potentially be wound up at Celtic Park: "Joey could, yes.

"I know Joey well. I worked with him at Newcastle. He does do a lot of talking, but if I can give him any advice I would say, 'Go and do it on the pitch Joey, don't do it off the pitch, do it on it', because he is a good footballer.

"They (Celtic players) might try to capitalise on that with Joey and Rangers players might try to get at Scott Brown.

"But Browny has been there, seen it and done it. Joey is an experienced player, he has been around the block, but as I said before, don't get involved in the hype, just play the game."

Thompson was red carded in the 5-1 defeat by Rangers in November 2000 for picking up two bookings and he put it down to getting caught up in everything that surrounds an Old Firm.

He said: "You just get involved in the hype during the week building up to it and you see the red mist. I wouldn't recommend it.

"It wasn't just my first game, it was a couple after that. You get caught up in the occasion, you get involved with one or two individuals.

"You mistime a silly tackle and it costs you and costs the team, costs the club and costs you points. Just play the game and don't get involved in the occasion and all the hype around it.

"It's fairly hypocritical of me to say that, but get on with it and enjoy the occasion.

"Don't ruin it by sitting in the dressing room for part of the game."

Belfast Telegraph


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