BRENDAN Rodgers has stressed that Eboue Kouassi remains a big part of his plans for the future - despite the player who joined Celtic in a £3 million deal earlier this year not featuring in any pre-season friendlies.

Kouassi, the Ivorian midfielder who was signed from Russian club Krasnodar during the January transfer window, has only played in five games for the Scottish champions, and four of those appearances have been as a substitute.

The 19-year-old was conspicuous by his absence during the Glasgow club’s tour of Austria and the Czech Republic where he wasn’t involved in any their games against Blau-Weiss Linz, Rapid Vienna or Slavia Prague.

Yet, Rodgers revealed the youngster – a raw talent who he always intended to develop over a period of time – picked up an injury at Lennoxtown before Celtic flew abroad and was unfit for his side’s first warm-up matches.

“It’s a shame,” he said. “In the session before we were leaving he got a kick in his abductor. We were playing a training game and he felt it. He didn’t really get the pain until he arrived in Austria and when we assessed it it was a case of ‘okay, see if it settles down.’

“We thought he was probably going to be out for a period of time, but he wanted to stay and be around the team and the squad.

“He has been working hard on his rehab and physical work and it’s a shame because he was training all summer, getting fit. He came back in and he looked really, really good. But we are hoping he will be with us by the weekend training.”

Rodgers, who is hoping to make his third signing of the close season in the coming days, is still convinced that Kouassi can be an invaluable addition to his squad and can start to justify his transfer fee in the near future.

“It’s time,” he said. “He was brought in as one who would, over a period of time, develop. He was a young player really at 19 and the first six months were about becoming accustomed to the language, the city of Glasgow and the football.

“And then I think it’s about time. You have to give time to young players. Some go in and develop quickly some need that wee bit of time. Also, what he’s got is real competition in there. But he was certainly one we felt was more for the future. He could come in and play now if he was needed. It’s just development.”

Rodgers, meanwhile, has put the slow start to the season by Scott Sinclair, who passed up a great scoring chance against Slavia in the Eden Arena on Tuesday night, down to rustiness.

“He’s just getting going again,” he said “It’s a psychological one probably for Scott as well. He’s never had just three weeks off and then been straight back into games. It’s just him getting going again.

"Like most of the players, none of them are going to be in top, top condition during this period. Once the fitness grows the technique will become even better and stronger and sharper."