CELTIC supporters have watched their club be used as the first stepping stone for their brightest stars to the top of the English game.

Victor Wanyama moved to Southampton first in 2013 before working his way to Tottenham in a big money transfer three years later.

Now a year-and-a-half after following the Kenyan to St Mary's, the Premier League's big hitters are working themselves into a lather as Virgil van Dijk appears poised to break into the big four, with Chelsea the latest potential suitor touting interest in the 25-year-old centre-half.

It has caused many Celtic fans to fear their latest superstar in the making, Moussa Dembele, will be nearing a similar long and winding road to the top this window.

However, Brendan Rodgers believes the Frenchman is able to cut out the middle man - rumoured in recent weeks to be West Ham - and jump straight into the team of England's super powers - if he hangs about at Celtic first.

“Absolutely but that’s about the player too, isn’t it," said the Hoops boss to SportTimes at his Dubai hotel base. “But Moussa definitely has that talent. He is a boy with an incredible belief in his ability but he backs it up.

“What I love about him as a 20-year-old boy is that he lives and breathes football.

“He doesn’t waste his time doing stupid things. He prepares well and comes into training as the most laid-back guy in the world.

“But when he trains he trains and when he works he works. And when you ask him about a game that was on TV, he watched it.

“He hasn’t been on an Xbox or out doing something. You sometimes speak to modern players and when you ask if they watched the Champions League game then they don’t know what you’re talking about.

“Moussa loves football. It’s his life and that’s why I think when he leaves Celtic he’ll go on to a big stage.Just hopefully not for a wee bit of time yet.”

Rodgers knows what he's talking about, he was the man who tried to make Van Dijk take the leap straight to Anfield when he was in charge at Liverpool.

The Northern Irishman believes talent will shine through and at the age of just 20, Dembele has already shown he is destined for a huge future.

“It’s about where the player is at, at the time of their ability," he said. “Virgil van Dijk could have jumped from Celtic to a Liverpool. Some clubs will want to see the players tested at certain arenas first.

“But if there is enough belief in the player then that counts. The key for scouting is trying to predict when the player is peaking.

“You could see with Van Dijk that he was quick, strong, good on the ball and decent in the air.

“So what more do you need to see? You could see him playing international football and, okay, clubs may want to see him in Champions League.

“Wanyama left and then made the jump but he was a good player at Celtic, showing up well in the Champions League.

“There is maybe an issue with scouts.

“When I was at Liverpool I asked about van Dijk and he was at Groningen and then at Celtic. But I was told he wouldn’t be for us at the time.”

The winter sunshine out here in the Emirates has clearly done little to warm Rodgers to the prospect of losing his prized asset in the January transfer window.

If anything, he is hotter on keeping the former Fulham protege than ever before.

A figure of £20million was attached to the West Ham interest, a figure the club are simply unwilling to sell for.

However, Rodgers hinted that even if the Parkhead side's valuation of Dembele was reached, they still wouldn't part with him.

"It's normal - a young kid at 20 and one of the top young strikers in European football is bound to be linked," he said.

"It just shows how well he's developed and how well the team has done in six months.

"He won't be going anywhere. There's no question of that. It's not part of the plan with me, his agent and the club.

"There's nothing that will change that.

"It's a testament to him and his team-mates how well he's done but I said before and without sounding arrogant, I know his value and his worth.

"I've been in England and I know the type of money that gets exchanged."

The Celtic manager also urged his board to stick to their plan concerning Dembele, and added: "Even if a club offered what we thought was the player’s worth now, we don’t need to do it.

“It’s one where we want to improve the team and keep developing as a team.

“When I bring a player in here and commit to improving him and developing him as a player, along with the staff, we organise a plan.

“We’re stable at the club but when the time comes for him, or other players to move on, we have to be in the business of ensuring that when they do leave they don’t leave on the cheap."