Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers says he “was actually surprised” that Everton sold Steven Naismith, as he believed the Scottish international was a “key player” at Goodison Park.
Naismith initially joined Everton from Rangers on a free transfer in 2012 and went on to make 123 appearances in all competitions for the Toffees until he was sold to Norwich City for close to £10m in 2016.
After contributing 13 goals in 48 games for the Canaries, Naismith left Norwich in January 2018 for a loan spell at Hearts where he remains to this day, scoring and creating 23 goals in 32 games.
His form in Scotland has led to him edging out Leigh Griffiths in the Scotland national team, and Rodgers admitted he was shocked to see the 32-year-old leave Everton two years ago. He clearly felt Naismith had more to offer the club.
As per the Liverpool Echo, the former Liverpool manager said: “I think the catalyst for it all (at Hearts) is Steven Naismith. I was actually surprised when he left Everton in the first place to go to Norwich because I thought he was one of their key players.
“But I’ve got no doubts – without knowing him – of his influence because of the level he’s played at I’m sure along with the other players he’s definitely made them very strong.
“I always recognised him as a very good player. He scored against me at Liverpool in one of the derbies, a 2-2 in 2012 when Luis Suarez scored for us. He was always a player I was impressed with wherever he played on the field. He had a good football brain, technically good with a good eye for goal.
“He works very hard and when I see him play he clearly looks after himself. He was a really good signing from Craig (Levein) to bring him in.”
The forward has made 49 appearances for Scotland, scoring nine goals, and is enjoying a new lease of life for club and country. Naismith has scored seven Premiership goals in 10 games this season and finds himself top of the scoring charts.
Stats from Transfermarkt.