CELTIC were furious last night after long-time signing target Stefan Scepovic pulled out of a £2.2 m move on the eve of the transfer window closing.
The Serbian striker told Celtic he would not be coming despite passing a medical in Madrid on Saturday. The transfer fee had been agreed with his club, Sporting Gijon, several days ago and personal terms had also been settled but the tall 24-year-old centre-forward changed his mind.
PSV Eindhoven were reported to be interested with Getafe also linked with him and the striker may now stay in Spain.
Celtic are angry that all the time and effort they put into the negotiating a deal for Scepovic - who they identified as the big attacking presence the team needs - has been rendered futile because of the player's late change of mind. On Saturday he was still telling the club he intended to come, four days after they were knocked out of the Champions League. The transfer deadline closes tonight, giving Celtic no real chance to land an alternative.
Meanwhile, manager Ronny Deila said he understood why Virgil van Dijk felt unable to play against Dundee yesterday but also insisted the 23-year-old defender will not he sold today. Van Dijk has told Celtic he wants to move and his omission from the team which drew 1-1 at Dens Park - and was booed off the pitch by a section of the travelling support at full-time - sparked speculation that he was being protected from any possible injury before the deadline.
Sunderland, Newcastle and Southampton have all been linked with deals worth up to £8m. Deila supported Van Dijk despite his refusal to play and said he accepted that the Dutchman would be mentally tired.
Another factor to consider, he said, was that the Dutchman's partner was due to give birth soon. Asked if he now felt comfortable about Van Dijk's commitment to the club, Deila said: "He is professional. There are a lot of emotions, a lot of thinking, and not so much sleep. The speculation is hard for the mind. We have told him that there is no chance he is going to leave.
"He is too important to us, so there is no chance we will let him go during this window. We couldn't replace him. Of course it's hard for him and he's had a lot of thinking to do. But it will not be a problem. His girlfriend is also pregnant and due soon. When you are not 100% at Celtic you can't play. Then other players can do a better job and that is how it is."
Van Dijk had told Celtic of his desire to move on. "He had wishes to get to a new stage, of course," said Deila. "As I said, he is a young player and a young man and he will get many chances in his career. He needs a couple of days to get this out of his system, get thinking positively again. He's a player we want to have and we would like to sign him on an even longer contract."
Leigh Griffiths will not be moving out either, not on loan to Hibs nor anywhere else, but Deila was vague on other transfer activity. Celtic were linked with Dundee United's Stuart Armstrong yesterday. "On Tuesday everyone will see what the squad is," said Deila. "I think that will be very good, especially for me."
Celtic have won only two of their last eight games. They went 1-0 down to James McPake's goal in the first minute at Dundee before substitute Griffiths' second-half equaliser. "I am not very concerned by the results," said Deila. "Now we get 10 days away from
each other, because almost
the entire squad is going away with their national teams.
"It is a possibility for them
to get their heads around something else, and also to play more matches. We started very badly. To concede a goal after one minute of course affects the players.
"I think we looked afraid
and we lacked energy.
That lasted for quite a while.
In the end, 1-1 is a fair result."
Dundee remain unbeaten this season and are level
with Celtic on seven points.
"I thought we created the better chances and had good situations," said manager Paul Hartley. "We've come a long way. We've only had the players for 10-to-12 weeks,
and they're buying in to
how we want to play. We're disappointed not to win today."