Celtic: Anthony Stokes 'part of our future', says Ronny Deila

Celtic striker Anthony Stokes arrives in Zagreb
Anthony Stokes is in Zagreb with Celtic ahead of their Europa League tie
Europa League Group D - Dinamo Zagreb v Celtic
Venue: Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb Date: Thursday, 11 December Kick-off: 18:00 GMT
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland; live text commentary on BBC Sport website

Ronny Deila insists that Anthony Stokes is part of Celtic's team-building plans amid speculation that the striker is interesting Cardiff City.

The 26-year-old Republic of Ireland international has been with the Scottish champions since 2010.

"Yes, of course," manager Deila replied when asked by BBC Scotland if he wanted to keep the player at Celtic Park.

"He has played well and was the match winner in the last game, so Stokesey is in our future."

Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk has also been linked with clubs in the Premier League in England ahead of the January transfer window.

Celtic manager Ronny Deila
"I think we have progressed all the time and had some good results in the Europa League."

But Deila insisted that he took any interest from clubs like Championship outfit Cardiff as a compliment.

"I'm happy that people are talking about our players because then they are performing well," he said.

"It is not the first one and is not going to be the last before the window closes.

"Our goal is to have a better team on 1 February than we have right now."

Deila was speaking ahead of Thursday's final Europa League Group D match against Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia.

His side have already qualified as runners-up to Salzburg, but the Norwegian stressed the importance of another victory to the future of Celtic and Scottish football.

"We are also fighting to be seeded in next season's competitions, hopefully in the Champions League," he said.

"That is a big motivation for me and for Scottish football it is important as well.

Celtic manager Ronny Deila speaks to the media in Zagreb
Ronny Deila is proud to have led Celtic to the Europa League knock-out stage

"The national team has done better and hopefully we can have a good season in this cup and hopefully we can get more people into the Champions League and Europa League."

Deila echoed the words of his assistant, John Collins, that drawing an English team in the knock-out stage would be an exciting prospect.

However, he stressed: "It is easy to say we want an English team because then it's going to be a full stadium in both legs.

"But what I really want is to go through, so I want the best team that gives us the opportunity to get through."

Celtic lost 3-1 at home to Salzburg in their last Europa League outing, but Deila is pleased with his side's development.

"I think we have progressed all the time and had some good results in the Europa League," he added.

"Away, we got a point against Salzburg and that was important - and I'm very proud that we're through."

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