RONNY DEILA, the Celtic manager, insisted Scottish football remained capable of producing top class talent and that Kieran Tierney had the potential to become the best player to emerge from this country in years.

The 18-year-old hugely impressed on his Scotland debut against Denmark, is line to sweep up every Young Player of the Year award and this week was linked with a move to Southampton.

After heaping sincere praise on a player he handed a debut to when he was only 17, Deila was asked whether the left-back could seriously be considered as the one our game has been waiting for to truly make it at the highest level - if indeed Scotland would ever again produce world class footballers.

The Norwegian said: "Of course he can. Lionel Messi can come from Scotland but there is maybe going to be one in a hundred years.

“Kenny Dalglish had a big, big career before. It’s true that was 30 years ago but Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) is coming from Sweden. So it’s possible.

“Kieran can go all the way. He can play at the highest level if he continues to develop. He needs to improve all the time and to do that he has to play.

“He has been playing here now consistently for seven months. He is in a very good situation, playing for his national team and in Europe for a big club. What can be better?"

Deila warned against the temptation for Tierney to jump at the first big offer that comes his way from England. The teenager is on a long-term contract and while Celtic are to all intents and purposes a selling club, this is one who won't be leaving any time soon.

Deila said: "The most important thing for Kieran is to stay at Celtic. Everything has happened very quickly but he needs experience. He needs to play over time and he gets that here.

"He needs to be here for at least one, two or three more years and hopefully he will develop even more. He can be a big player for Celtic and we will see what is happening after that.

"How far can he go? I get that question many times. He has all the attributes a professional footballer needs to have. He is very curious, very disciplined and works hard every day in training. That is the start – his attitude is fantastic. Then he has speed and agility so he is hard to get past and he gets up and down the pitch,

"Playing at a big club like this, and also being at home with your family and friends, that is the best opportunity to develop your talent. There is no need for him to go anywhere else, he just needs to keep on working here."

Deila admitted he winced as his defender Erik Sviatchenko was felled by Scotland's Liam Bridcutt during Tuesday night's challenge match at Hampden but the Dane is fit to face Hearts at Celtic Park.

But he will be without Jozo Simunovic for the rest of this season, the Croat having required an operation on his knee.

He arrived with a big reputation and a big fee but has had fitness problems from the start, although Deila defended his player from accusations that he is injury prone.

“Of course it is frustrating for us but also for him because he is a very professional player and he’s really eager to play, so it’s a big blow for him and for us as well," said the manager.

"He had a little bit [of a problem] in the beginning and then he played some games in a row and now he has this other injury in the knee.

"But what can you do with it? It’s not a muscle that you can do something with, it’s different, so we just have to rely on the doctor and how they are assessing things.”