Celtic transfer guarantee emerges from inside dressing room as O'Riley truth appears and Dubravka told where to go

Stephen Welsh is adamant champions Celtic never stand still.

The Parkhead defender insists the players will be raring to go again at the big kick-off. With less than a month to go before the Premiership campaign kicks-off against Kilmarnock, the build-up is underway for Brendan Rodgers’ title holders. The manager is patiently working towards adding new recruits to strengthen his Double-winning squad. Welsh says Celtic are always ready for the latest challenges and explained: “We are always striving to improve. We are never standing still. I think the more competition for places in the team, the better because it pushes everyone on.

“It doesn’t matter whereabouts on the pitch it is, if we have a lot of quality in the position, it makes us a better team. We are just looking to get the fitness in now and, by the time the season comes, we will be raring to go. We know we have a great squad, have got winners in the team and we’re very much looking forward to the season. I think (naming transfer targets) is probably a bit higher up than me. I don’t think I can completely comment on that. But as I said there, we are never a club that stands still. We always look to improve on and off the pitch, so, yeah, we will see.”

Brendan Rodgers -Credit:SNS Group
Brendan Rodgers -Credit:SNS Group

Where could those improvements come? Between the sticks, for one. Rodgers cycled through three goalkeepers in Celtic's friendly draw with Ayr United, with Scott Bain, Tobi Oluwayemi and Josh Clarke getting half an hour each. There was no Benjamin Siegrist in sights, but there's minimal chance of Rodgers starting the competitive season with any of those four wearing the No.1 jersey.

One who Record Sport understands there is firm interest in is Newcastle shotstopper Martin Dubravka. His situation is up in the air and he appears set to leave after taking a swipe at his club, who signed Odysseas Vlachomidos from Nottingham Forest to push the Slovak further down the pecking order.

And former Newcastle keeper and Hoops diehard Shay Given reckons it's time for him to look elsewhere - and couldn't say no to a 'three or four-year deal' somewhere else. He told Newcastle World: “I don’t know what’s happening with Dubravka and if he’s maybe got ambitions to leave after playing really well last season whilst Nick was out and having a good Euros as well. So he might think it is a good opportunity to go and play at a different club.

“I don’t know what his situation is. I think he might only have a year left on his contract and he’s maybe looking at the bigger picture from his own personal point of view that on the back of a really good Euros, maybe it’s time to look at his own personal situation. Eddie (Howe) might say ‘I really want you to stay and push Nick. You’ll play in all the cup games. It’s a squad game etc’. But if Eddie makes it clear that Nick’s going to play and Martin isn’t then it’s a different conversation.

“If Martin is offered a three or four-year contract somewhere else then that’s something he has to look at himself because he did have a good season when Nick was out. All eyes are on the Euros and Dubravka has done really well in that so I’ll be interested to see what happens. We’re not privy to conversations Martin is going to have with Eddie but in the next few weeks it’ll be clearer for everyone what’s going to happen in that situation."

Further up the pitch, things are fairly settled in midfield. Record Sport reported on Saturday night that the Hoops have ramped up talks with Paulo Bernardo and want to strike a £4m deal with Benfica. There could yet be movement where Matt O'Riley is concerned, however, with Leicester the latest side to show an interest. The Scottish Sun say they see him as the ideal replacement for Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, who joined Chelsea for £30m.

Record Sport understands rumoured interest from Serie A side Atalanta is wide of the mark, but Russell Martin's newly-promoted Southampton are also swimming around. Martin brought O'Riley through at MK Dons after his release from Fulham in 2020 so there's logic in a potential move there. Brighton are also credited, but as things stand the Dane is training at Lennoxtown and set to go on the Bhoys' pre-season tour in the US as normal.