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Greek but never orthodox, striker has a big decision to make next year

THE scene conjures up the theme music from the Odd Couple.

Scott Brown and Georgios Samaras have formed something of an odd couple in the past six years at Celtic
Scott Brown and Georgios Samaras have formed something of an odd couple in the past six years at Celtic

The laidback Greek sits in the dressing room, so chilled one suspects he has just been decanted from the fridge. His captain, Scott Brown, fidgets beside him, as restless as a cat in the show ring at Crufts.

These most unusual of partners have maintained a steady relationship. Brown joined from Hibernian in the summer of 2007 and Samaras came, initially on loan from Manchester City, in the following January.

They now sit side by side in the dressing-room, pondering different futures at the age of 28. The Scot seems settled in terms of where he will pursue his professional life and will watch the World Cup on television as a Celtic player. The Greek, who will participate in Brazil as an important part of his national side, has decisions to make as his contract runs down and a move in the January window beckons.

"Sami has been here six years and I'm sure he wants to stay. I know he wouldn't miss the bad weather, but my banter makes up for it," said the Scot with his undimmed sunniness. "I sit right next to him in the dressing room, so that must have made him happy for the last six years. Sami is the most relaxed guy in the world. So chilled out. Honestly, if you told the big man the world was coming to an end that night, he'd say: "Well, it's been a good day, eh?"

This natural composure has been an important asset for the striker at Celtic. No one quite knows how to cast Sami. Is he the pantomime villain or the dramatic hero? He is, of course, a bit of both and something more.

If Samaras was the complete forward, Manchester City would not have allowed him to go to Celtic. If Samaras was the fully-formed, consistent performer then Celtic would not have been able to hold on to him.

But much has changed. It is far from the end of the world for Samaras but the planets have come into some sort of alignment for him and he has much to consider. His contract ends in the summer and his visibility has soared. He enjoyed an excellent Champions League campaign when Celtic emerged from a difficult group last season and he has been crucial in Greece's qualification for the World Cup. Sami is now an asset and one that Celtic must seek to sell in January if he is determined not to renew his contract.

Samaras knows there are complications to any smooth resolution as to his future. First, he is happy in Glasgow and dismissed overtures from France when Celtic were willing to sell him in the summer window following the humiliating defeat to Ross County in the Scottish Cup semi-final in 2010.

Second, he must choose any destination with care. Samaras needs to play in the build-up to the World Cup.

He is used, also, to playing in a winning side. "I would like to play in a more competitive league," the Greek said. "But it would need to be somewhere where they want to be winners. There's no way I could sign for a team whose objective is to finish in 10th place."

He also needs to be cosseted, even loved. Lennon described his best decision in his first title-winning season as bringing Samaras on board, making him a vital part of his strategy and rewarding him with praise. Subsequently, the Celtic manager has rewarded his player with the occasional fitting of the captain's armband.

However, the Greek's deficiencies can be highly visible. He can seem to sulk on the park, his concentration can waver and his finishing could never be described as flawless.

But he has undeniable attributes. "Sami brings a lot," said Brown. "People are always picking on him for not doing this or that, but look at what he did for us in the Champions League last season. He pretty much carried us with five away goals. No-one has ever done that at Celtic and he is a such a big player for us.

"Look at Hearts last weekend. They were sitting in, yet he finds a bit of space, beats two men and put James Forrest away to score the second goal of the game."

Joe Ledley, the Welsh internationalist, is in the same situation as Samaras as regards his contract and Brown said they were further similarities. "Sami's a great player and Joe's the same," he said. "The thing about Joe is he scores goals in big games. He's a big-game player. The way he has played in the last four of five games has been ridiculously good.

"I appreciate what both of them bring to the team and so do the other lads. Perhaps some fans can't see the bigger picture of what they bring, but they also do the same in the dressing room. I think getting those two signed up would be as big as we could do in January. If we can get those two tied-up, it would be huge for the club."

The elder partner in the Odd Couple has undergone a hip operation, one that has banished those days when he "got out of bed feeling like my grandad'. He feels fit and fresh for the future at Celtic. Samaras is similarly vibrant but he may have a new dressing room peg somewhere after the window closes.

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