Daniel Arzani is closing in on a breakthrough at Celtic with the youngster convinced he’s adding a more robust edge to his game to cope with the heightened physicality of Scottish football.
Debate has raged over coach Brendan Rodgers’ reluctance to blood the on-loan 19-year-old, who has featured in two Socceroos camps and made just two academy appearances since his arrival from Manchester City in August.
But an impressive 25-minute cameo for his country in last week’s 4-0 victory over Kuwait has given momentum to Arzani’s quest for game time with the double treble winners.
On the back of that performance in Kuwait City, Arzani was included in an extended 18-strong senior squad for the first time ahead of Celtic’s 4-2 victory over Hibernian at the weekend.
He didn’t make the bench but confidence is growing that the dexterous and dashing attacker is close to convincing Rodgers and his coaching staff that he is match-ready for the Hoops.
Arzani has been working tirelessly on adorning his tricky touches and eye-catching panache with a more robust and resilient edge.
He can’t feature in Friday’s (AEDT) Europa League trip to Germany to face RB Leipzig after failing to make the cut of designated players for the competition.
But a window of opportunity might arise on Sunday in the semi-final of the Scottish League Cup against SPL leaders Hearts, where a place on the bench may not be out of the question.
Following that, the Bhoys take on Dundee and Hearts, both in the SPL, before the return leg against Leipzig in Glasgow.
Explaining his rationale with Arzani, Rodgers said at the weekend: “He has adapted very well and much as people would love him to come in and play he wasn’t ready. So it’s all a process.
"Coming in after a World Cup with players a number of weeks ahead of him in terms of fitness and training, he is adapting to a more physical game.
"There are lots of things, but he is very happy and we have been very pleased in terms of how he is making progress.
"It’s not easy to just snap your fingers and just come into a top team with top players who have done very well, but I have been really pleased with how he is developing and working and adapting to how we want to work.”
Rodgers refuted the assertion that there is an agreement in place between City, Celtic and Arzani’s management to curtail his two-year loan deal should he fail to gain game time by December.
However, The World Game - which was first to reveal news of Arzani’s move to Celtic - has been told by sources close to his camp that such an arrangement exists and remains in place, though none of the parties want to see it activated.