Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has not ruled out a possible move for central defender Steven Caulker after confirming he has answered a “cry for help” from the troubled former England international.
Caulker, who shone for a season on loan at Swansea City in the Premier League under Rodgers six years ago, recently revealed he had been driven to the brink of suicide by his alcohol and gambling addictions.
Rodgers insists it is too early for him to make any firm move to sign the 25-year-old who has a year left on his contract with current club QPR.
As they start their new season with their opening Champions League qualifier against Linfield in Belfast this evening, Celtic have been left short of central defensive options after Dedryck Boyata suffered knee ligament damage which is expected to sideline him for three months.
Rodgers is full of praise for Caulker’s qualities but says their initial discussions were firmly focused on the player’s efforts to rehabilitate his life off the pitch.
“I spoke to him as a former manager,” said Rodgers. “The kid messaged me. He has been suffering for the last period of time and he looked to me as someone who looked after him when he was 19 and I was only too happy to reach out and help him.
“We spoke at length about his life and his situation and just where he is at. He is a boy that if he can get it together and find peace, then he is an awesome talent. He is 6 foot 3, quick, strong, he can play. You would take him to war with you.
“He is unbelievable in both boxes, he is an incredible young footballer but he is suffering. Having had experience in trying to help him previously, I was only too happy to do that. At this stage there is nothing more than that. He is obviously a QPR player and I was only too happy to speak to him and help him try to shape his life really.”
Asked if Boyata’s injury may accelerate any potential efforts to sign Caulker, Rodgers replied: “Not at this stage. I don’t think it’s worth going there yet. I have spoken to him only recently, in the last few days. He is a big, talented player and he is only 25 but bless him, we’ll see with that. Initially, it is a cry for help.”
Rodgers, meanwhile, has expressed his satisfaction at Celtic’s ambition and level of resources in this week recruiting French midfielder Olivier Ntcham from Manchester City for £4.5 million, the biggest fee the Scottish champions have paid for a player since 2007.
“Hopefully it is a signing that allows us to kick on over the next couple of seasons,” he said. “I was asked to come here and help Celtic dominate Scottish football and qualify for the Champions League and European football and for that you need players.
“I have been looking for this type of player for about a year now. One of the key things I recognised when I came in was that I needed speed and power in the team. We got Moussa [Dembele] in and we got Scott [Sinclair] in and then I felt in midfield, especially at the highest level, it is very important to have a high level of technique with that speed and power. With Olivier being 21, like Moussa, he has that hunger to succeed. He is coming to an incredible club, he has got great qualities and this will be a perfect environment for him to develop.”