DON’T tell Neil Lennon there aren’t any great players in Scotland. Let’s just say the Celtic manager doesn’t quite see eye-to-eye with Kris Boyd’s views on this subject.

Okay so the former Rangers player-turned-pundit correctly identified that we don’t have a Lionel Messi or a Cristiano Ronaldo but it wasn’t so long ago that we did have the man who the Celtic manager reckons should have beaten off both to lift the Ballon d’Or on Monday night. And, for the record, he reckons Virgil van Dijk was as great a player back then as he is now.

And you may be able to say the same thing in future for Old Firm strike duo Odsonne Edouard and Alfredo Morelos. Not to mention Edouard's Celtic team-mates like Callum McGregor and James Forrest.


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“It depends how you define great,” ponders Lennon. “If he is comparing everyone to Messi and Ronaldo then …

“But Van Dijk played in Scotland not so long ago. Do we have a [Kevin] De Bruyne or an [Eden] Hazard? Maybe not. But did we ever have great players at that level?

“Maybe Henrik. But the way the game is changing you have to go and spend £30m to bring these players now.

“Listen, we had Virgil and can we go and create more great players along the way? Of course we can. So I think it’s an idiotic statement to make.

"We have to create our own monsters again," he added. "John McGinn could potentially go on to be a great player. Callum McGregor, I think, is a great player.

“But how do you compare them? If you went and put them in the Premier League would they thrive in it? No question.

“John McGinn already is. Callum would, James Forrest would, Andrew Robertson is a great player who was playing in Scotland three or four years ago. So for me it’s folly and doesn’t make a lot of sense to say these things. Is it petty jealousy or something? I don’t know.

“I get that pundits like Kris have to be controversial and make these sort of statements, but it doesn’t wash with me. We should be talking the game up, not talking it down. Although it’s not up to me to talk the game up. It’s up to me to put a team out to win games and try to make inroads in Europe and try to let other people decide what they think.”

Whether they are ‘great’ players right now, or perhaps future greats, neither is Lennon the type to talk down the fashionable Glasgow parlour game where football supporters compare and contrast ad nauseam the merits of Edouard and Morelos and their hypothetical market worth. Once tonight's meeting with Hamilton is out the way, we may gain a further insight into this one during Sunday’s BetFred Cup final at Hampden, assuming both are fit.


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“They are two great players,” said Lennon. “They are both different in style and bring a lot of quality to both teams.

“Fans will compare. Young fans or old fans. That’s what all supporters do when there is a rivalry there and I don’t mind that at all.

“We have more than two top players in the country. But they are two excellent centre forwards and they are the ones that make a difference I suppose.”

Van Dijk remains the high watermark - a player who strolled through the Scottish game and hardly seems to have broken sweat since. All this snobbery about England being the ultimate proving ground rings a little hollow when you consider the top league south of the border this year cannot hold a candle to the high-octane fight to the finish which could well play out between Celtic and Rangers in the Ladbrokes Premiership this term.

“Loads of scouts were ringing me when he [Van Dijk] was here and I’m saying to them, ‘what are you waiting on?'" said Lennon. “Is it because he plays in Scotland? Well, he’d already played for us in the Champions League. It was there right in front of them.

“Yes, he has gone on to play well in England – but he was already that player when he was up here in Scotland.

“Edouard and Morelos are the same. They are already those players and they are both doing it in Europe as well. I think they could potentially go on to have great careers. They already are.

“For us to say they are great players, do they have to go and play in England? I think they will be great players anywhere.

“Henrik was always a great player but people in England were saying, ‘oh, he can’t do it.’ But everybody could see every week what Henrik was. Of course he could. You guys can make that judgement now on Edouard or Morelos or McGregor or Forrest. Could they go and play in England? Of course they could.


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“For me the English Premier League is over. It’s the first week in December and it’s already over. Here we have a title challenge on, a title race, or whatever you want to call it. There’s all that money awash in the Premier League - with all those great teams - and apart from Leicester making a real fist of it, it’s over.”

“I was driving in this morning thinking about it. If both these teams were in England it would be monstrous. Such is the passion and rivalry and intensity of Glasgow they’d both blow clubs away.

“It’s very special what we have here in this city. Sometimes we pin it down and sometimes it gets dark. But in the main it’s a great city for football.

"You miss it when you go away and now I’m back in it I’m really enjoying it. Although I’m not listening to a lot of nonsense - and a lot of nonsense comes with it!”