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The word ‘legend’ is a noun that is overused in the sporting world, particularly in association football.

One memorable season – whether that be individually or collectively as part of a team – can lead to a player being labelled as one, without necessarily having the CV or experience to back it up or deserve the accolade.

These same accusations cannot be made for Callum McGregor, the captain for Celtic. McGregor - following the reappointment of Brendan Rodgers as the club’s manager – has recently signed a new five-year contract at Celtic, keeping him there until the summer of 2028. This news has directly followed the renewals of both Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda, who both also committed their long-term futures to the club last week.

Speaking to the Celtic website about his new deal, McGregor said: “It’s amazing to extend my stay at the club. As I’ve touched on before, this club means so much to me and the success that we’ve had over the past few seasons has cemented that.

“I feel like the club’s in a great place to move forward as well, and when they came and asked me to extend my stay I was absolutely delighted.

“Together with the Celtic fans what we’ve achieved are memories that will stay with me forever, and there’s only one place that I want to play football and that’s here.”

READ MORE: Brendan Rodgers already has his Celtic impact player - Ryan McGinlay

Rodgers was similarly delighted to be able to hold onto McGregor for another five years. He said: “It’s amazing news for the club, for the supporters and for the players, but as a manager it’s extra special to have someone of that quality captain the team.

“Callum’s just such an inspirational player and I’m absolutely delighted to working with him again. He’s the heartbeat of this team. He’s taken on the responsibility of being captain of a worldwide institution with great effect and we’ll look to continue that development.”

Since his debut in 2014, McGregor has effectively been a mainstay for Celtic in the centre of midfield. Following an extremely successful loan spell at English side Notts County, he made his debut in Ronny Deila’s first competitive game in charge against KR Reykjavík in a Champions League qualifier in Iceland. He would score in his debut, before playing 30 games in all competitions, scoring five goals in the process.

Despite his emergence under Deila, he found himself in and out of the side during the Norwegian’s reign at the club. It was not until Rodgers joined the club that the Scotland international fully realised his potential as a Celtic player. Indeed, he made 46 appearances under the Northern Irishman in his first season in charge, scoring seven goals in what was a third successive increase in his offensive output.

Under Rodgers, McGregor truly became the player that he is now, all thanks to the returning manager. From a player who was in and out of the starting line-up to one who could not be left out of it, McGregor commanded his spot in the team. An impressive feat, especially considering he was competing against the likes of Stuart Armstrong, Nir Bitton, Tom Rogic and captain Scott Brown for a starting berth in a busy pool of midfielders.

Accepted as a trusted goal contributor and provider for Celtic during this time, McGregor’s numbers under Rodgers hit their optimum level in the latter’s second season. In 55 games in the 2017/18 campaign, McGregor scored 12 goals as he won his second treble in as many years. It is clear that Rodgers knows how to get the best out of the player, a trend that the club hope will continue following the pair’s reunion.

Following Rodgers’ first departure in 2019, McGregor’s numbers in terms of goals and appearances under Neil Lennon were very good, scoring a Celtic career-high 13 goals in 52 total appearances. However – much like the side he was a part of – this would not keep up. 13 goals to four in the space of a year is a noticeable decrease in output for a player of his quality, as the side slumped to second place.

Following this miserable season, McGregor’s Celtic career was certainly at a crossroads. Would he chase the money down south and move to pastures new? Or would he stay and attempt to wrestle the title back from Rangers?

READ MORE: June 2023: That Was the Month That Was for Celtic

Thankfully for all concerned with the club, McGregor opted for the latter. In doing so, he assumed the role as the captain of Celtic, succeeding Scott Brown who had departed for a player-coaching role at Stephen Glass’ Aberdeen.

Deployed as the deepest midfielder in Ange Postecoglou’s new-look midfield, this change was the career renaissance that McGregor needed to reignite his Celtic career, one which should all but secure his legendary status at the club. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, McGregor was reborn under the Australian.

A total of five domestic trophies out of a possible six fully demonstrates the level of dominance that McGregor has presided over as the Celtic skipper. On an individual level, he was voted by his fellow professionals as the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in his maiden season as captain. Quite a turnaround from the previous season’s misfortunes.

Still only 30 years-old and firmly in the prime of his career, McGregor will be hoping he can continue to add to his legacy as a bona fide Celtic great, with his contract renewal ensuring this can transpire. Under the watchful eye of Rodgers, the midfielder will surely be mentioned in the same breath as legends that came before him when all is said and done.

Overall, the ‘legend’ tag is very much apt for McGregor, and long may he continue to consolidate his status as such.

This piece is an extract from the latest Celtic Digest newsletter, which is emailed out every weekday evening with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from The Celtic Way team.

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