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Lennon cites progress as key over marquee signing

NEIL LENNON, the Celtic manager, has revealed any signings made this month will centre on "longer term planning" and ruled out the prospect of bringing in a marquee player as a sop to supporters in the second half of the campaign.

Neil Lennon: 'there's no question that the final third needs an injection of quality'
Neil Lennon: 'there's no question that the final third needs an injection of quality'

Lennon has made recruiting a striker who can deliver "an injection of quality" his priority during the transfer window, with a view to having the player bedded in by the time Champions League qualifying commences in the summer. The Northern Irishman, therefore, sees no value in bringing in a loan player given the SPFL Premiership title is all but secured but has hinted that the club may be willing to break their self-imposed transfer fee and wage caps should a suitable target emerge. Celtic spent £1.8m on Amido Balde and £3m on Teemu Pukki in the summer but neither striker has made the impact expected of them.

"We've always been synonymous with being goalscorers, so what we want to do is to try to find someone who'll come in and take on the mantle - and that's not being disrespectful to the players I have currently," he said. "But there's no question that the final third needs an injection of quality.

"We are playing as well as we can. Our league form has been fantastic but I'm looking ahead to the next two or three years. I want to bring in one or two who'll make us better over that length of time. It's about longer term planning. There is no point bringing loan signings in now, unless it is a loan with a view to buying the player at the end of it. The policy is the same but we may have to break the wage structure eventually. I don't know if we will in this window or not. I don't want a huge wage differential with any player coming in. If we have to break the wage structure, it won't be by much."

On the idea of signing a high-profile player to help boost dwindling attendances and raise morale among the Celtic support, Lennon added: "That doesn't come into my thinking. It's not a marquee signing I'm looking for, it's a player or players that will bring us on and make us better."

Lennon, who met chief executive Peter Lawwell yesterday morning to discuss transfer strategy, confirmed that the club would be able to stretch to £6m if that were the asking price for Steven Fletcher, but suspected Sunderland may wish to hold out for more for the Scotland forward. "He's obviously a fine player but he cost Sunderland £11m and I don't have that type of money, believe me," he insisted. "He is a player that I think most teams in Britain would like but affordability might be a problem for us though.

"Could we afford to spend £6m on one player? Yes, we could. We have resources now. We are in probably as strong a position as we've been in a long, long time, so it's important that we spend the money that's available and get the right quality in."

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