Bayer Leverkusen eye Daniel Kelly as Celtic try to get deal done

German Champions Bayer Leverkusen is the latest club to be linked to one of Celtic’s top two breakthrough stars.

Daniel Kelly joins Rocco Vata in currently being in negotiations with Celtic about their contract situation with Vata’s current deal running out at the end next month and Kelly’s at the end of the year.

Both are set to receive Celtic final offers after a period of negotiations over the past few months have failed to reach agreements. Brendan Rodgers is keen to work with both players as part of his first team squad going forward and both players have featured – and scored – in the current campaign.

Rocco Vata celebrates with Mikey Johnston and Daniel Kelly after he scores Celtic’s fifth goal during the Celtic v Buckie Thistle – Scottish Cup match at Celtic Park on January 21, 2024. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Vata hit the back of the net against Buckie Thistle in the Scottish Cup in January while Kelly netted against Dundee in February in the Scottish Premiership. For both players those were their first goals in a competitive match in senior football.

Daniel Kelly of Celtic speaks with Brendan Rodgers, Celtic v Dundee, Scottish Premiership, , Celtic Park,  28 February  2024. Photo Mark Runnacles/Shutterstock

Rocco Vata has numerous options in Italy and England but like Kelly, Celtic is his team and if there is a viable route to first team football then Celtic could retain his services. The same was thought to be the case as far as Daniel Kelly is concerned but it’s not a surprise – it’s like a win on the online pokies in Australia for such a savvy club as Bayer Leverkusen, so no wonder they are sniffing around at this stage as they look to snap up the best young talent to develop.

Stuart Knight of Buckie Thistle saves from Rocco Vata  as Daniel Kelly moves in during the Celtic v Buckie Thistle – Scottish Cup match at Celtic Park on January 21, 2024 . (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Leverkusen have the Europa League Final in Dublin against Italian side Atlanta then a cup final against lower tier opponents this weekend and two wins would complete a incredible treble of league and cup in domestic German football and success on the European stage winning the Europa League Final this evening.

Jeremie Frimpong left Celtic as a 20 year old a few years ago and has ever looked back, establishing himself as a key member of Xabi Alonso’s squad. The success of that move would certainly give Daniel Kelly confidence that opportunities will exist at first team level for younger players to take.

28th February 2024 Celtic Park, Scottish Premiership Football, Celtic versus Dundee Daniel Kelly shoots and scores for 7-0 in the 63rd minute Photo ActionPlus David Young

Celtic probably don’t do enough in this regard and haven’t for a number of years. Previously managers like Billy McNeill and Davie Hay would regularly bring on the younger players in games that were already essential won. That gave young players opportunity and it was then up to them to take it. Kelly’s goal against Dundee came when Celtic were already six goals to the good. Surely there should be more time given to younger players coming through the ranks at Celtic in similar circumstances?

Ben Doak of Liverpool during the match between Karlsruher and Liverpool  at BBBank Wildparkstadion on July 19, 2023 in Karlsruhe, Germany. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Will Celtic lose Daniel Kelly and Rocco Vata, in the same way we lost Ben Doak to Liverpool in 2022? Doak was named in Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad for Euro 2024 today and is set to have a top career at Liverpool.

Celtic need to find a better way to retain our top young talent and one way to do that is to provide a viable pathway to the first team.

Celtic Manager Brendan Rodgers is a development coach, it’s what he excels at, making young players better. Both Rocco Vata and Daniel Kelly would benefit from working with him and now the project signings seem to have thankfully gone out of fashion at Celtic, it maybe now going to be the case that the projects can come from the excellent Celtic Academy.

Brendan Rodgers and Kieran Tierney of Celtic are seen during the UEFA Champions League Qualifier between Celtic and Alashkert FC at Celtic Park on July 18, 2018 (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Home grown talent like Callum McGregor, James Forrest and Kieran Tierney who Celtic were able to sell to Arsenal for £25m.

If Celtic lose Rocco Vata and Daniel Kelly at this stage the combined development fees will be around £800k and we’ll watch them from afar go onto become young stars of tomorrow, just like Ben Doak.

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

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