The language of football is rich and varied. You would be surprised, for instance, how many profanities a critical fan can shoe-horn into a heated conversation about the tactical merits of the false nine.

Brendan Rodgers, meanwhile, remains something of a footballing linguist. The Celtic manager is learning French and he is already fluent in Spanish. It’s a handy string to the bow in these multi-cultural times.

“A lot of them [overseas] are surprised because normally us British people are a bit insular that way,” said Rodgers of his ability to turn his hand to another language.

“Young Maryan [Shved], the player we signed from Ukraine was a great example of what language can do. He didn’t speak English, I didn’t speak Ukranian but we could speak Spanish because he had two years at Sevilla.

“If I could do two things in the world I’d speak every language and I would play every musical instrument. Why? It’s the ability to communicate. As you grow older you understand communication is so important.

“It’s not perfect by any means but when I set out it was to be able to coach in the language and to be able to speak and greet. I always think if you speak to someone in their second language you speak to their head. If you speak in their first you speak to their heart.”

With the first leg of a Europa League last 32 encounter with Valencia coming up this week, Rodgers’ ability to speak the lingo may come in handy when he comes to deciphering the various barks and bellows coming from the Spanish dug-out in the heat of the battle.

Rodgers’ passion and respect for all things Spanish is considerable. In his formative coaching days, he would make visits to Valencia to absorb the various approaches and techniques while he continues to harbour ambitions of, one day, exploring new horizons on the managerial front.

“I’d like to manage abroad,” he said as he afforded himself a glimpse into the future. “I’d like to get out of my comfort zone at some point over the next 20 years.

“Spain is a country I’ve enjoyed learning the culture of and speaking the language opens up South America too. I’ve loved going to Spain. It was so refreshing to go over there [early in his career]. Valencia were one of the clubs where youth players came through. They were very open and there was nothing hidden.

“When I was doing my academy director’s licence I did my study on Valencia. But before that I’d been going out as a coach. I took a reserve Chelsea team out there for a game so I’ve always had good relationships there.”

Those relationships will be put to the side on Thursday night as Celtic look to win a knock-out tie post group stage in Europe for the first time since Martin O’Neill’s side beat Barcelona in 2004.

There is a school of thought suggesting that the break between the group stages finishing and the head-to-head matches kicking in can disrupt the momentum. Rodgers is having none of that.

“You can look at it that way,” he said. “But you can also look at it differently in that you are fresher, there’s the buzz again, it’s knock-out and you have to embrace the challenge. We expect to do that. They are a great club

with a great history but that doesn’t give them 12 men.

It’s still 11 v 11.”

The arrival on loan of new recruits like Oliver Burke and Timothy Weah has bolstered Rodgers’ options. Nurturing young talent and getting them to make the most of their abilities and potential has always been one of Rodgers’ great strengths.

The arrival of Weah and Burke, who have been farmed out from Paris Saint Germain and West Bromwich Albion respectively, has had mutual benefits, even though keeping such talents in Glasgow in the long term is something of a pipe dream.

“He [Weah] has been a breath of fresh air,” said Rodgers. “If he’s not out on the training pitch, then he’s out watching. He loves being here. That’s great to see in a kid who really wants to be a player. He’s not expecting it to be handed to him. I’ve been delighted with him. It’s a great challenge for us to help him develop and we get the benefit.

“It would be great for Celtic [to keep Burke] but the reality is that the improvements he will make here over the course of the next six months will probably excite West Brom and then if they get promoted probably his wages change anyway.

“He helps us for now, as we are getting in a big talent, and we help them.”

Helping Celtic help themselves in Europe is next.

HeraldScotland | Sport

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