CELTIC are close to appointing Ronny Deila as their new manager within the next 48 hours and could recruit John Collins as his assistant.
A deal has still to be agreed with 38-year-old Deila's current club, Norwegian champions Stromsgodset, but progress could be swift. Stromsgodset turned down Celtic's first offer of compensation last night although talks between the clubs continued. The Norwegians do not want to deny Deila the chance to advance his career but also feel that, as a Champions League club - they will enter in the second qualifying round, along with Celtic - they should be adequately compensated for losing their manager.
Deila's agent, Tore Pedersen, is believed to have met senior Celtic figures in Glasgow yesterday after the Scottish champions asked permission to speak to his client on Tuesday night. Deila declined to discuss Celtic in any detail last night when he faced reporters after Stromsgodset were beaten 4-2 by second-tier Tromsdalen in the Norwegian Cup.
"It's speculation, there's nothing concrete at the moment," he said. "It's flattering. It's a big club, and it's nice to be one of the names mentioned. I always said I have a dream [to manage outside of Norway]. This isn't the right day to talk about coaching internationally, but we'll see when the time comes."
Herald Sport can reveal that Collins, the former Celtic midfielder, has been identified as an ideal figure to provide knowledge of the club and the wider Scottish football scene given that Deila has never previously worked outside of Norway. Collins played for Celtic between 1990 and 1996 and later managed Hibs and Charleroi before becoming director of football at Livingston in February, 2012, where he lasted a year. Celtic are tempted by the idea of introducing a director of football too but Collins's role, if confirmed, would be as Deila's number two.
The shock move for the Norwegian came from left field yesterday after days of speculation concerning Henrik Larsson, Malky Mackay, Owen Coyle, Steve Clarke and Roy Keane, with the latter approached by majority shareholder Dermot Desmond only make himself unavailable for the job.
Although there is disagreement over compensation, that is not likely to be a significant stumbling block given that Deila has made it known that he wants to come to Parkhead. He signed a new contract at Stromsgodset in 2013, after the club became Norwegian league champions for the first time since 1970, and he is contractually committed to the club until 2016. Celtic will have to pay compensation to free him early but his current salary, understood to be around £200,000, would not make the settlement prohibitive.
Deila amounts to a leap into the unknown for Celtic given his age, his lack of experience outside of Norway, where he won the Norwegian Cup in 2010 and posted steadily improving league results from when he was appointed in 2008 to last season's title success. His style of football is attacking and based on energy and pressing, often playing a 4-3-3 formation, while as a qualified teacher his manner is thoughtful and measured.
Stromsgodset chairman Tom Saxegaard told STV: "We are going to play in the Champions League and obviously we want to keep him. He's our manager and is under contract with us for two-and-a-half years. We really think he can get to the very top."
The club have already done one piece of business with Celtic this year, with midfielder Stefan Johansen moving in January. He will be a highly influential figure if Deila takes over and the manager tries to impress an experienced, seasoned Parkhead squad.
Despite last night's cup defeat, which may prove Deila's swansong, Stromsgodset are unbeaten in 46 home league games since June, 2011.