Brendan Rodgers fixed eyes on Callum McGregor long before Celtic as 'whippersnapper' made Anfield impression

Brendan Rodgers has revealed that he had been aware of Callum McGregor's potential long before his first meeting with the Celtic captain at Lennoxtown.

During the Irishman's three years in charge of Steven Gerrard's Liverpool, McGregor first caught Rodgers eye when he turned out for Notts County in a League Cup second round clash at Anfield in August 2013. The then 20-year-old had joined the EFL League One club on a season-long loan deal earlier that summer, and enjoyed a superb campaign down south, scoring 14 goals in 41 matches.

And on night where the Premier League giants fielded a team that included Gerrard, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge, minnows Notts County Liverpool all the way, losing 4-2 after extra time after fighting back from 2-0 down. McGregor played every minute of that cup tie at Anfield and Rodgers admits that had stuck in his mind when they officially met after he first took the Celtic job in the summer of 2016.

He told Sky Sports: "It's been so satisfying and brilliant to see (McGregor's career at Celtic). I first game across Cal when he played for Notts County against my Liverpool team in a cup game. He was a young whippersnapper then but coming here the first time, he had grown so much as a player.

"I found someone who has this incredible view of football and who has the very highest level of ability. In the biggest performances of the biggest games during my first time here, he was at the centre of it.

McGregor (middle) played the full 120 minutes as Notts County held their own against Liverpool back in 2013
McGregor (middle) played the full 120 minutes as Notts County held their own against Liverpool back in 2013 -Credit:Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

"But to see him now lead and be the figurehead of the team, I have great pride in him and the good he is doing for the team. I know how he looks after himself and he has a number of years to go to influence this squad and this team. To see him go from that guy in 2016 who was trying to force his way into becoming a permanent fixture to now being this legend and captain of a player, has been so nice to see.

"Before I came back last year, I got to meet Cal and we had a good long chat. He told me about the team, the squad and everything else. This is a guy who I would trust with my life and have done since our first time working together. I trust his opinion."