Celtic want ‘brilliant’ player Brendan Rodgers once called ‘world-class’

Celtic want ‘brilliant’ player Brendan Rodgers once called ‘world-class’

Some say the phrase ‘world-class’ is overused in modern football and, to be honest, they have a point. But it’s not that long ago since those two five letter words were following Wilfred Ndidi around in a manner remisnicent of the way the Leicester City enforcer would man-mark an opposition playmaker out of the game.

“Harry Kane is not getting the balls he needs to do damage. Wilfred Ndidi is making it difficult for (Tottenham) to break the press,” former Spurs boss Tim Sherwood told talkSPORT; the Nigeria international laid the foundations for a 2-0 Leicester win in North London back in December 2020. 

“That is what you want from a midfielder. He is world-class in the way he interprets his role.” 

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Nigeria icon Sunday Oliseh used the same phrase during an FA Cup quarter-final vs Chelsea a few seasons earlier. Brendan Rodgers, meanwhile, spoke in glowing terms about the way Ndidi’s intelligence on and off the pitch.

“The one thing with Wilfred he is a world-class learner,” the ex-Foxes boss told The Athletic. “He wants to learn. He wants to improve and then he wants to do something about it.

“He’s been absolutely brilliant since I came here.” 

A Brendan Rodgers reunion

So reports from the Daily Mail suggesting that Ndidi could be on his way to Celtic – potentially reuniting with Rodgers north of the border – serve to highlight just how far his stock has fallen since those heady days of 2019-2021.

And that is meant as no disrespect to Celtic; Scottish Premiership champions and one of Europe’s most iconic footballing institutions. 

It’s just that Scotland is not the first destination that comes to mind. Not for a 26-year-old midfielder who had spent much of his Premier League career being labelled among the very best deep-lying ball-winners on the planet. 

Leicester’s relegation last season was, in part, the result of a staggering decline from a number of players who helped guide the Foxes to FA Cup and Community Shield glory in 2021. Youri Tielemens and Caglar Soyuncu – once £40 million assets – have now joined Aston Villa and Atletico Madrid for free. 

Leicester City v Randers FC: Knockout Round Play-Offs Leg One - UEFA Europa Conference League
Photo by Vincent Mignott/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Ndidi, meanwhile, has gone from being linked with a big-money move to Arsenal and Manchester United to losing his starting spot at the base of Leicester’s midfield.

A fresh start at Celtic

Exactly why Ndidi declined so spectacularly is not quite certain. But a player who averaged the most tackles in the Premier League during 2021/22 and 2020/21 – and the second-most in 2019/20 – should not be written off entirely on the basis of one admittedly abysmal campaign (WhoScored). 

Perhaps a reunion with Rodgers, at a team as domestically dominant as Celtic, could be a turning point in Ndidi’s career. A necessary confidence-booster. Much in the same way as that January switch to Rangers was for the once-Liverpool-linked Todd Cantwell.

Joe Hart rebuild his own career north of the border. There is Champions League football on offer too.

Weekend trips to Livingston, St Johnston and Ross County may not have been what Ndidi had a mind when he was dominating Premier League proceedings with his telescopic limbs and bone-rattling tackles. 

But Celtic helped rescue Brendan Rodgers’ reputation when his Liverpool career unravelled back in 2016 and, with the Northern Irishman returning to Parkhead, the Hoops could have a similarly restorative impact on one of his old charges.

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