CALLUM McGREGOR has revealed his huge regret since breaking into the Celtic first team under Ronny Deila in the summer of 2014.
The Scotland international midfielder was part of the Hoops youth squad trained by the late Tommy Burns – and the club’s vice-captain admitted he would have welcomed the opportunity to line up alongside his mentor.
McGregor, speaking during a Q&A session on the club’s Twitter account, said: “Tommy was incredible and such a massive influence on me when I was younger with him being head of the academy.
“He was always working really close with the academy even when he was first-team coach.
MIDFIELD MASTER…Tommy Burns in full flow.
“My dad remembers watching him play and would tell me how good a player he was. He was similar to me in that he was left-footed, could shift the ball, ping passes and score goals.
“If I could choose another ex-Celt to play with, I’d go with Henrik Larsson. As a midfield player, he’d make my job so easy.
“You would find him with the ball and he’d do the rest. He could do everything, come short, run in behind or score headers.”
Scott Brown also gets McGregor’s vote as his best team-mate – rated higher than £75million Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk.
He gave the nod to the inspirational skipper when he was asked to to name his favourite colleague.
McGregor played alongside the gifted Liverpool Champions League winner for only two years after Neil Lennon had paid a bargain £2.6million to bring him in from Dutch outfit Groningen in 2013.
Van Dijk’s outstanding displays earned him a £13million switch to Southampton before his-then world record fee for a defender when he arrived at Anfield a couple of seasons later.
The big-money deals of Holland’s elegant back-four operator may dwarf the £4.4million fee that took Brown from Hibs to Parkhead in 2007 – a Scottish all-time high at the time – but McGregor is in no doubt about the qualities of the two players.
The midfield anchorman said: “The best player I’ve played with is a tough choice. I’ve played with Virgil van Dijk who is now regarded as the best centre-half in the world.
CHEERS…Scott Brown holds the newly-won League Cup with Callum McGregor, Jeremie Frimpong, Ryan Christie and Kristoffer Ajer joining the celebarations following the 1-0 win over Rangers in December.
“He’s progressed so much since leaving Celtic – but the person I see perform at the highest level every single day is Broony.
“He does it in training and in games. His mentality is always the same. For me to work so closely with him, I see his attitude and the way he drives other people on.
“He’s always got the highest standards. His footballing ability gets overlooked a lot, as well. You don’t play for Celtic for over 10 years and wear the captain armband and not be a top player.
“He’s played in all these European games and he’s a top footballer. For me, to be that consistent over a period of 14 or 15 years shows that he’s a top player.”
Asked to reveal his toughest opponent, McGregor didn’t hesitate: “I’ll go for an easy one here and say Lionel Messi. It’s a standard answer, but he’s so good that you can’t help but pick him every time.
“You watch him on the TV and he’s incredible. To play against him a few times is something else. He’s so good that you can’t even get near him.
“You think he’s going to pass it and then he dribbles past you. It’s like he knows what’s going on before you even think about what he’s going to do. He’s incredible and such a special talent.”