ACTIONS speak louder than words when it comes to Joe Ledley's desire that the vibrant, young Celtic team which beat Barcelona is kept together.
The Wales midfielder indicated last night that talks were under way towards him becoming the next of the club's midweek Champions League heroes to commit to extending his contract at the club, after his countryman Adam Matthews, Charlie Mulgrew and James Forrest signed deals earlier in the campaign which take them through to 2016.
"I have one more year after this season and, hopefully, I can stay," said the 25-year-old. "It's a fantastic club – I love playing for Celtic – and talks have started. I have spoken to my agent and, hopefully, something can happen."
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Keeping some of the other notable midweek protagonists at the club for the foreseeable future may be rather more difficult to achieve, however. While Ledley's midfield colleague Victor Wanyama put in a display which lived up to his manager's £25m billing and will have made another positive impression on any of the Premier League or La Liga scouts who saw it, the match was a personal masterclass from Neil Lennon. His team executed the manager's game-plan to perfection, scoring once from a training-ground set-piece, and the other by virtue of the inspired introduction of a callow 18-year-old whom he plucked from the lower divisions. Ledley admits the battle to retain the Northern Irishman's services begins now.
"There will be interest because he's a fantastic manager, and very passionate in what he does," said Ledley. "There will be interest in everyone but we need to keep our feet on the ground and keep going. He [Lennon] is by far the best manager I've ever had, along with Gary Speed. He's young, hungry and wants us to win as young players. He's a fantastic manager, he's still learning and he has a great future. His tactics were fantastic. We worked on set-pieces and other things – and it paid off over the two games. There is definitely more to come. Hopefully, we can keep the group together, bring people in and improve the squad."
The memories of the night before were still fresh for Ledley, as he met the assembled press corps at Broughton High School in Edinburgh at the draw for the semi-finals of the Scottish Communities League Cup. After being permitted a precious moment of silence in the dressing room by Lennon afterwards to drink the moment in ["He told us to take sit down and take a few minutes just to think about we had done and go from there."], Ledley revelled in the result with his family – who were up from Wales for the match.
His new memento for the occasion was the top of none other than Barca captain Xavi Hernandez, not long after he had also unchracteristically gifted Tony Watt a run on Victor Valdes for the clinching second goal on the night.
"I was glad I had my family up and was able to spend time with them afterwards," Ledley said. "It was fantastic to sit down and watch it all on Sky Sports News. It takes a while to sink in. It was a fantastic achievement but we have more important games coming. But we need to go again now. We need points in the league and hopefully that starts against St Johnstone on Sunday.
"I got Xavi's strip after the game and I was delighted with that," he added. "As a footballer you always look up to the top players and he is one of the best. I asked for his strip and he said he would give me it in the tunnel. The Barca players went off the pitch early and I thought he would have been gone. But, to be fair to Xavi, he waited for me and we swopped shirts."
Ledley agreed with Lennon's prognosis that this wasn't only the best moment of his career, it was a life experience to treasure for ever.
"Is it the best moment of my career? Without a shadow of a doubt. Reaching the FA Cup final with Cardiff was up there, but beating the best team in the world was special. It's the best moment of my life."
There was further personal validation for a player who could have chosen the easy option.
"I could have maybe gone to a Barclays Premier League team and just sat in mid-table," he said. "I didn't want that. I like winning games. I want to win things and play in the best competition in the world – the Champions League. I'd have liked to be in the tournament a bit earlier but we finally did it in my third season and it's a fantastic feeling. It's been worth the wait."