Celtic striker Moussa Dembele risks stunting his development if he puts his future in the hands of relegation candidates West Ham United, the wonderkid has been told. The France Under-21 international has enjoyed a stellar season at Celtic Park, guiding the club into a 19-point lead at the summit of the Scottish Premiership.
The 20-year-old has scored 36 times this term and the Daily Mail reported last week that the Hammers' search for a forward has led to them making a £20m ($23.1m) bid for Dembele. Celtic have since dismissed the reports, amid suggestions the rumoured bid sits significantly below their valuation of their top scorer.
Dembele's importance to Celtic has been re-emphasised by captain Scott Brown, who has hailed the player's humility amid frenzied speculation regarding his future in Scotland. The Bhoys skipper has advised the youngster to remain north of the border, where he will benefit from continuing to work under Brendan Rodgers, and avoid a fight for survival with West Ham.
"There's no: 'Look at me, I'm going for £20m or £25m'," he said, according to the Sunday Sun. "We start at 9.15am on the dot. He just swaggers in at 9.15am on the dot. He's the most laid-back guy in the world, trains, does his bit in the gym. If you walk past him he has his music on and he's just happy with that.
"Celtic is a great place to be and it's always been my focus to stay here and play for as long as possible. You get the opportunities and it is whether it is right for him or not. People can go and chance their luck and you never know, Moussa can go down there, do what he's been doing at Celtic and be in flames and go to a top four club. Look at Virgil van Dijk, Victor Wanyama. That's what can happen if you take your chance at the right time."
Injury to Diafra Sakho, the end of Simone Zaza's loan spell and Andre Ayew's participation in the Africa Cup of Nations leaves West Ham threadbare in attack – an area the club badly need to strengthen. Slaven Bilic's side were knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester City on Friday (6 January) and lie seven points above the Premier League drop zone after two straight defeats.
Former Hammer Jermain Defoe has been linked with a return to east London, with Sunderland rejecting a £6m bid for the 34-year-old, according to manager David Moyes. But such is the desperation at the club, Dean Ashton has urged them side to break the bank to sign Defoe.
"Jermain Defoe is an absolute no-brainer. I know he is getting on in age but if you look at him physically, he looks as good as he did ten years ago," he told Talksport. "He obviously looks after himself. Of course you are going to pay over the odds for Jermain but I have played with Jermain and he is arguably the best finisher I have seen in the flesh.
"I think £20m isn't a big amount. The amount of money clubs are getting for the TV rights now, there is no reason why West Ham can't afford that. It is just whether they want to pay that for Jermain Defoe. You can't just go and pick players with that ability to score goals that Jermain Defoe has got. They don't come around every day. He has still got a lot to offer. I think he would love to come back to London and back to West Ham."