Brendan Rodgers had to “remove the emotion” in order to leave a decorated spell at Celtic for a Premier League return with Leicester City.
Rodgers turned his back on the opportunity to complete a third consecutive domestic treble in Scotland to take the reins at the King Power Stadium following Claude Puel’s sacking last weekend.
The ex-Liverpool and Swansea City boss was left weighing the appeal of another crack at England’s top flight against the emotional pull of a club close to his heart.
“It was a very, very difficult decision. If I was making this decision with my heart then I’d be at Celtic for life,” Rodgers told his first news conference as Leicester manager ahead of Sunday’s trip to former club Watford.
“It’s an incredible club, a club I’ve supported all my life, but it all happened very quickly. I was presented with an opportunity that came to me.
“Emotionally you’re having to take that out. My decision was that after nearly three years at Celtic – with everything we’d achieved and the success we’d had on the pitch, the improvements off the pitch – then it was time to move on to my next challenge.
“I had opportunities to leave but this was an opportunity that I felt was too good to turn down.
“It wasn’t easy. I’ve got family and friends who have grown up Celtic supporters who are deeply upset, but I have to remove the emotion.
“Of course, there’s real sadness. In my time in Scotland I’ve made a whole host of friends at the club itself. The players enthused me every day. They’re an incredible bunch and will continue to have success.
“It’s not about [moving to a bigger club], it’s about the challenge and coming to the Premier League. The challenge of coming in and working against top players and top coaches.”
“It’s such an exciting group of players that we can improve and develop. But also experience with the likes of Jonny Evans and Wes Morgan. The squad has a lot of potential.” #WelcomeBrendan
Tune in pic.twitter.com/eHoyD7vI1U
— Leicester City (@LCFC) March 1, 2019
Rodgers’ exit has prompted a backlash from some Celtic fans.
A banner branding him a “fraud” was unveiled before the midweek game at Hearts, while police are reportedly investigating derogatory chants about the 46-year-old that have circulated on social media.
“I saw the banner and the Celtic supporters are hurting,” he said. “They are an incredible fanbase who gave me everything, so I’m not going to say anything other than that.
“It’s a moment when there was a shock and they’re probably angry but I think eventually there’ll be a reality that sets in and hopefully the work that we did there will be appreciated.
“This may be a little bit unfair on Leicester City because I’m certainly not coming into a mediocre club. It’s a club with a rich history of its own and its recent history has been incredible.”
One factor that has put Rodgers under particular scrutiny in Glasgow is the suggestion he could have waited until the end of this season to finish what he started in terms of Celtic’s historic run.
“It wouldn’t have waited until the summer,” he countered. “The club had to make a decision and the intention was to bring in someone permanent
“When they spoke to Celtic they made it clear that I was their only choice, which means that I had a decision to make. It wouldn’t have waited.
“It’s not something that I was looking for. An opportunity to come to a club like Leicester wasn’t going to wait for me.”
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