NEIL LENNON, the Celtic manager, has revealed he will look to strengthen his side in "four or five positions" this summer, while admitting he is becoming increasingly resigned to losing the services of Georgios Samaras.
Lennon has already started planning for next season with the champions-elect again needing to get through three qualifying rounds to reach the Champions League group stage. He is hopeful of avoiding the upheaval of last summer when key personnel Kelvin Wilson, Gary Hooper and Victor Wanyama all moved on but, regardless of how many players leave this summer, the Northern Irishman believes his squad needs substantially bolstered for the challenges ahead.
"We've got an extensive list of players we're looking at to possibly bring in this summer," he said. "We're looking at four or five positions. Striker is always a priority, but, at the minute we have very good players in that position. Possibly it might be an average transaction period, but you go in with an idea of what you want. Whether you get it is another thing.
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"You look at last season and I thought there was a lot of upheaval when we lost three boys in the space of a week to 10 days. That was a difficult period because we were in the middle of the [Champions League] qualifiers and you couldn't play them as you didn't know what frame of mind they were in. It may be a little bit less fraught than it seems and we'll try and do our business as quickly as soon as possible. I want to strengthen the squad because I don't want people assuming they are going to play every week."
Lennon admitted failure to qualify for the Champions League would likely impinge on his transfer budget, and could lead to some players leaving. "Manchester United can sign players if they don't reach the group stage of the Champions League, but maybe not the ones they want," he added. "It's the same for every top club in their domestic countries. If they want to progress in the Champions League and win their own domestic leagues, the money the Champions League brings is imperative.
"It's very difficult because of the climate we are in. There may be prudence involved as we go along, hopefully for the short-term anyway. It's just the environment we are in. It's difficult to accept sometimes, but that is the reality of it. Certainly if we don't make the group stage of the Champions League it could be a realistic scenario [players leaving]. If we make it, we might not have to sell."
Samaras' contract is set to expire at the end of the season, and with no sign that he will sign an extension, Lennon now feels the Greek will move on. "It's certainly looking that way," added the manager. "There's been no more communication between the club and his representatives at the minute. He's not out the team because of that - I wouldn't cut off my nose to spite my face.
"I have too much respect for Georgios anyway and he will play games. But it's looking less and less likely that he will be here."